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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Dec;68(12):6256-62.

Growth of iron(III)-reducing bacteria on clay minerals as the sole electron acceptor and comparison of growth yields on a variety of oxidized iron forms.

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  • 1Department of Oceanography, Florida State University, Tallahassee 32306, USA.


Smectite clay minerals are abundant in soils and sediments worldwide and are typically rich in Fe. While recent investigations have shown that the structural Fe(III) bound in clay minerals is reduced by microorganisms, previous studies have not tested growth with clay minerals as the sole electron acceptor. Here we have demonstrated that a pure culture of Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 as well as enrichment cultures of Fe(III)-reducing bacteria from rice paddy soil and subsurface sediments are capable of conserving energy for growth with the structural Fe(III) bound in smectite clay as the sole electron acceptor. Pure cultures of S. oneidensis were used for more detailed growth rate and yield experiments on various solid- and soluble-phase electron acceptors [smectite, Fe(III) oxyhydroxide FeOOH, Fe(III) citrate, and oxygen] in the same minimal medium. Growth was assessed as direct cell counts or as an increase in cell carbon (measured as particulate organic carbon). Cell counts showed that similar growth of S. oneidensis (10(8) cells ml(-1)) occurred with smectitic Fe(III) and on other Fe forms [amorphous Fe(III) oxyhydroxide, and Fe citrate] or oxygen as the electron acceptor. In contrast, cell yields of S. oneidensis measured as the increase in cell carbon were similar on all Fe forms tested while yields on oxygen were five times higher, in agreement with thermodynamic predictions. Over a range of particle loadings (0.5 to 4 g liter(-1)), the increase in cell number was highly correlated to the amount of structural Fe in smectite reduced. From phylogenetic analysis of the complete 16S rRNA gene sequences, a predominance of clones retrieved from the clay mineral-reducing enrichment cultures were most closely related to the low-G+C gram-positive members of the Bacteria (Clostridium and Desulfitobacterium) and the delta-Proteobacteria (members of the Geobacteraceae). Results indicate that growth with smectitic Fe(III) is similar in magnitude to that with Fe(III) oxide minerals and is dependent upon the mineral surface area available. Iron(III) bound in clay minerals should be considered an important electron acceptor supporting the growth of bacteria in soils or sedimentary environments.

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