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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Sep;70(9):5183-9.

Direct correlation between rates of anaerobic respiration and levels of mRNA for key respiratory genes in Geobacter sulfurreducens.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Massachusetts, Morrill Science Center IV North, 639 North Pleasant St., Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


The predominance of Geobacter species in environments in which Fe(III) reduction is important has suggested that Fe(III) reduction rates might be estimated in Geobacter-dominated environments by assessing in situ activity with molecular techniques. To determine whether mRNA levels of key respiratory genes might be correlated with respiration rates in Geobacter sulfurreducens, studies were conducted with fumarate as the electron acceptor and acetate as the limiting electron donor in anaerobic continuous cultures. Levels of mRNA for a fumarate reductase gene, frdA, quantified by real-time reverse transcription-PCR were directly correlated with fumarate reduction rates. In similar studies with Fe(III) as the electron acceptor, mRNA levels for omcB, a gene for an outer membrane c-type cytochrome involved in Fe(III) reduction, were positively correlated with Fe(III) reduction rates. Levels of mRNA for frdA and omcB were also positively correlated with fumarate and Fe(III) reduction rates, respectively, when growth was limited by the availability of fumarate or Fe(III), but mRNA levels were higher than in acetate-limited cultures. Levels of mRNA for omcC, which encodes a c-type cytochrome highly similar to OmcB but not necessary for Fe(III) reduction, followed patterns different than those of omcB. This agrees with the previous finding that OmcC is not involved in Fe(III) reduction and suggests that changes in mRNA levels of omcB are related to its role in Fe(III) reduction. These results demonstrate that mRNA levels for respiratory genes might be used to estimate in situ Fe(III) reduction rates in Geobacter-dominated environments but suggest that information on environmental conditions and/or the metabolic state of Geobacter species is also required for accurate rate estimates.

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