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J Biol Eng. 2013 May 29;7(1):14. doi: 10.1186/1754-1611-7-14.

Model-driven elucidation of the inherent capacity of Geobacter sulfurreducens for electricity generation.

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Centre for Advanced Computational Solutions, Wine, Food & Molecular Bioscience Department, Lincoln University, Ellesmere Junction Road, Lincoln, 7647, New Zealand.



G. sulfurreducens is one of the commonest microbes used in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for organic-to-electricity biotransformation. In MFCs based on this microorganism, electrons can be conveyed to the anode via three ways: 1) direct electron transfer (DET) mode, in which electrons of reduced c-type cytochromes in the microbial outer membrane are directly oxidized by the anode; 2) mediated electron transfer (MET) mode, in which the reducing potential available from cell metabolism in the form of NADH is targeted as an electron source for electricity generation with the aid of exogenous mediators; and 3) a putative mixed operation mode involving both electron transfer mechanisms described above (DET and MET). However, the potential of G. sulfurreducens for current output in these three operation modes and the metabolic mechanisms underlying the extraction of the reducing equivalents are still unknown.


In this study, we performed flux balance analysis (FBA) of the genome-scale metabolic network to compute the fundamental metabolic potential of G. sulfurreducens for current output that is compatible with reaction stoichiometry, given a realistic nutrient uptake rate. We also developed a method, flux variability analysis with target flux minimization (FATMIN) to eliminate futile NADH cycles. Our study elucidates the possible metabolic strategies to sustain the NADH for current production under the MET and Mixed modes. The results showed that G. sulfurreducens had a potential to output current at up to 3.710 A/gDW for DET mode, 2.711 A/gDW for MET mode and 3.272 A/gDW for a putative mixed MET and DET mode. Compared with DET, which relies on only one contributing reaction, MET and Mixed mode were more resilient with ten and four reactions respectively for high current production.


The DET mode can achieve a higher maximum limit of the current output than the MET mode, but the MET has an advantage of higher power output and more flexible metabolic choices to sustain the electric current. The MET and DET modes compete with each other for the metabolic resource for the electricity generation.

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