Long-range electron transport in Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms is redox gradient-driven

Rachel M Snider, Sarah M Strycharz-Glaven, Stanislav D Tsoi, Jeffrey S Erickson, Leonard M Tender
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2012 September 18, 109 (38): 15467-72
Geobacter spp. can acquire energy by coupling intracellular oxidation of organic matter with extracellular electron transfer to an anode (an electrode poised at a metabolically oxidizing potential), forming a biofilm extending many cell lengths away from the anode surface. It has been proposed that long-range electron transport in such biofilms occurs through a network of bound redox cofactors, thought to involve extracellular matrix c-type cytochromes, as occurs for polymers containing discrete redox moieties. Here, we report measurements of electron transport in actively respiring Geobacter sulfurreducens wild type biofilms using interdigitated microelectrode arrays. Measurements when one electrode is used as an anode and the other electrode is used to monitor redox status of the biofilm 15 μm away indicate the presence of an intrabiofilm redox gradient, in which the concentration of electrons residing within the proposed redox cofactor network is higher farther from the anode surface. The magnitude of the redox gradient seems to correlate with current, which is consistent with electron transport from cells in the biofilm to the anode, where electrons effectively diffuse from areas of high to low concentration, hopping between redox cofactors. Comparison with gate measurements, when one electrode is used as an electron source and the other electrode is used as an electron drain, suggests that there are multiple types of redox cofactors in Geobacter biofilms spanning a range in oxidation potential that can engage in electron transport. The majority of these redox cofactors, however, seem to have oxidation potentials too negative to be involved in electron transport when acetate is the electron source.

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