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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2014 Dec;12(12):809-21. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3365. Epub 2014 Nov 10.

Autotrophy at the thermodynamic limit of life: a model for energy conservation in acetogenic bacteria.

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Molecular Microbiology and Bioenergetics, Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Life on earth evolved in the absence of oxygen with inorganic gases as potential sources of carbon and energy. Among the alternative mechanisms for carbon dioxide (CO₂) fixation in the living world, only the reduction of CO₂ by the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway, which is used by acetogenic bacteria, complies with the two requirements to sustain life: conservation of energy and production of biomass. However, how energy is conserved in acetogenic bacteria has been an enigma since their discovery. In this Review, we discuss the latest progress on the biochemistry and genetics of the energy metabolism of model acetogens, elucidating how these bacteria couple CO₂ fixation to energy conservation.

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