Adaptation to disruption of the electron transfer pathway for Fe(III) reduction in Geobacter sulfurreducens

Ching Leang, L A Adams, K-J Chin, K P Nevin, B A Methé, J Webster, M L Sharma, D R Lovley
Journal of Bacteriology 2005, 187 (17): 5918-26
Previous studies demonstrated that an outer membrane c-type cytochrome, OmcB, was involved in Fe(III) reduction in Geobacter sulfurreducens. An OmcB-deficient mutant was greatly impaired in its ability to reduce both soluble and insoluble Fe(III). Reintroducing omcB restored the capacity for Fe(III) reduction at a level proportional to the level of OmcB production. Here, we report that the OmcB-deficient mutant gradually adapted to grow on soluble Fe(III) but not insoluble Fe(III). The adapted OmcB-deficient mutant reduced soluble Fe(III) at a rate comparable to that of the wild type, but the cell yield of the mutant was only ca. 60% of that of the wild type under steady-state culturing conditions. Analysis of proteins and transcript levels demonstrated that expression of several membrane-associated cytochromes was higher in the adapted mutant than in the wild type. Further comparison of transcript levels during steady-state growth on Fe(III) citrate with a whole-genome DNA microarray revealed a significant shift in gene expression in an apparent attempt to adapt metabolism to the impaired electron transport to Fe(III). These results demonstrate that, although there are many other membrane-bound c-type cytochromes in G. sulfurreducens, increased expression of these cytochromes cannot completely compensate for the loss of OmcB. The concept that outer membrane cytochromes are promiscuous reductases that are interchangeable in function appears to be incorrect. Furthermore, the results indicate that there may be different mechanisms for electron transfer to soluble Fe(III) and insoluble Fe(III) oxides in G. sulfurreducens, which emphasizes the importance of studying electron transport to the environmentally relevant Fe(III) oxides.

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