Electron donors supporting growth and electroactivity of Geobacter sulfurreducens anode biofilms

Allison M Speers, Gemma Reguera
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2012, 78 (2): 437-44
Geobacter bacteria efficiently oxidize acetate into electricity in bioelectrochemical systems, yet the range of fermentation products that support the growth of anode biofilms and electricity production has not been thoroughly investigated. Here, we show that Geobacter sulfurreducens oxidized formate and lactate with electrodes and Fe(III) as terminal electron acceptors, though with reduced efficiency compared to acetate. The structure of the formate and lactate biofilms increased in roughness, and the substratum coverage decreased, to alleviate the metabolic constraints derived from the assimilation of carbon from the substrates. Low levels of acetate promoted formate carbon assimilation and biofilm growth and increased the system's performance to levels comparable to those with acetate only. Lactate carbon assimilation also limited biofilm growth and led to the partial oxidization of lactate to acetate. However, lactate was fully oxidized in the presence of fumarate, which redirected carbon fluxes into the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and by acetate-grown biofilms. These results expand the known ranges of electron donors for Geobacter-driven fuel cells and identify microbial constraints that can be targeted to develop better-performing strains and increase the performance of bioelectrochemical systems.

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