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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2008 Nov;66(2):250-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2008.00592.x. Epub 2008 Sep 22.

Physiology of phototrophic iron(II)-oxidizing bacteria: implications for modern and ancient environments.

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Geomicrobiology group, Center for Applied Geosciences, University of Tübingen, Germany.


Phototrophic iron(II) [Fe(II)]-oxidizing bacteria are present in modern environments and evidence suggests that this metabolism was present already on early earth. We determined Fe(II) oxidation rates depending on pH, temperature, light intensity, and Fe(II) concentration for three phylogenetically different phototrophic Fe(II)-oxidizing strains (purple nonsulfur bacterium Rhodobacter ferrooxidans sp. strain SW2, purple sulfur bacterium Thiodictyon sp. strain F4, and green sulfur bacterium Chlorobium ferrooxidans strain KoFox). While we found the overall highest Fe(II) oxidation rates with strain F4 (4.5 mmol L(-1) day(-1), 800 lux, 20 degrees C), the lowest light saturation values [at which maximum Fe(II) oxidation occurred] were determined for strain KoFox with light saturation already below 50 lux. The oxidation rate per cell was determined for R. ferrooxidans strain SW2 to be 32 pmol Fe(II) h(-1) per cell. No significant toxic effect of Fe(II) was observed at Fe(II) concentrations of up to 30 mM. All three strains are mesophiles with upper temperature limits of c. 30 degrees C. The main pigments were identified to be spheroidene, spheroidenone, OH-spheroidenone (SW2), rhodopinal (F4), and chlorobactene (KoFox). This study will improve our ecophysiological understanding of iron cycling in modern environments and will help to evaluate whether phototrophic iron oxidizers may have contributed to the formation of Fe(III) on early earth.

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