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Bioresour Technol. 2011 Jan;102(1):324-33. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2010.07.008. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

Cathodes as electron donors for microbial metabolism: which extracellular electron transfer mechanisms are involved?

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 214 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


This review illuminates extracellular electron transfer mechanisms that may be involved in microbial bioelectrochemical systems with biocathodes. Microbially-catalyzed cathodes are evolving for new bioprocessing applications for waste(water) treatment, carbon dioxide fixation, chemical product formation, or bioremediation. Extracellular electron transfer processes in biological anodes, were the electrode serves as electron acceptor, have been widely studied. However, for biological cathodes the question remains: what are the biochemical mechanisms for the extracellular electron transfer from a cathode (electron donor) to a microorganism? This question was approached by not only analysing the literature on biocathodes, but also by investigating known extracellular microbial oxidation reactions in environmental processes. Here, it is predicted that in direct electron transfer reactions, c-type cytochromes often together with hydrogenases play a critical role and that, in mediated electron transfer reactions, natural redox mediators, such as PQQ, will be involved in the bioelectrochemical reaction. These mechanisms are very similar to processes at the bioanode, but the components operate at different redox potentials. The biocatalyzed cathode reactions, thereby, are not necessarily energy conserving for the microorganism.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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