Gene transcript analysis of assimilatory iron limitation in Geobacteraceae during groundwater bioremediation

Regina A O'Neil, Dawn E Holmes, Maddalena V Coppi, Lorrie A Adams, M Juliana Larrahondo, Joy E Ward, Kelly P Nevin, Trevor L Woodard, Helen A Vrionis, A Lucie N'Guessan, Derek R Lovley
Environmental Microbiology 2008, 10 (5): 1218-30
Limitations on the availability of Fe(III) as an electron acceptor are thought to play an important role in restricting the growth and activity of Geobacter species during bioremediation of contaminated subsurface environments, but the possibility that these organisms might also be limited in the subsurface by the availability of iron for assimilatory purposes was not previously considered because copious quantities of Fe(II) are produced as the result of Fe(III) reduction. Analysis of multiple Geobacteraceae genomes revealed the presence of a three-gene cluster consisting of homologues of two iron-dependent regulators, fur and dtxR (ideR), separated by a homologue of feoB, which encodes an Fe(II) uptake protein. This cluster appears to be conserved among members of the Geobacteraceae and was detected in several environments. Expression of the fur-feoB-ideR cluster decreased as Fe(II) concentrations increased in chemostat cultures. The number of Geobacteraceae feoB transcripts in groundwater samples from a site undergoing in situ uranium bioremediation was relatively high until the concentration of dissolved Fe(II) increased near the end of the field experiment. These results suggest that, because much of the Fe(II) is sequestered in solid phases, Geobacter species, which have a high requirement for iron for iron-sulfur proteins, may be limited by the amount of iron available for assimilatory purposes. These results demonstrate the ability of transcript analysis to reveal previously unsuspected aspects of the in situ physiology of microorganisms in subsurface environments.

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