Variation among Desulfovibrio species in electron transfer systems used for syntrophic growth

Birte Meyer, Jennifer Kuehl, Adam M Deutschbauer, Morgan N Price, Adam P Arkin, David A Stahl
Journal of Bacteriology 2013, 195 (5): 990-1004
Mineralization of organic matter in anoxic environments relies on the cooperative activities of hydrogen producers and consumers linked by interspecies electron transfer in syntrophic consortia that may include sulfate-reducing species (e.g., Desulfovibrio). Physiological differences and various gene repertoires implicated in syntrophic metabolism among Desulfovibrio species suggest considerable variation in the biochemical basis of syntrophy. In this study, comparative transcriptional and mutant analyses of Desulfovibrio alaskensis strain G20 and Desulfovibrio vulgaris strain Hildenborough growing syntrophically with Methanococcus maripaludis on lactate were used to develop new and revised models for their alternative electron transfer and energy conservation systems. Lactate oxidation by strain G20 generates a reduced thiol-disulfide redox pair(s) and ferredoxin that are energetically coupled to H(+)/CO(2) reduction by periplasmic formate dehydrogenase and hydrogenase via a flavin-based reverse electron bifurcation process (electron confurcation) and a menaquinone (MQ) redox loop-mediated reverse electron flow involving the membrane-bound Qmo and Qrc complexes. In contrast, strain Hildenborough uses a larger number of cytoplasmic and periplasmic proteins linked in three intertwining pathways to couple H(+) reduction to lactate oxidation. The faster growth of strain G20 in coculture is associated with a kinetic advantage conferred by the Qmo-MQ-Qrc loop as an electron transfer system that permits higher lactate oxidation rates under elevated hydrogen levels (thereby enhancing methanogenic growth) and use of formate as the main electron-exchange mediator (>70% electron flux), as opposed to the primarily hydrogen-based exchange by strain Hildenborough. This study further demonstrates the absence of a conserved gene core in Desulfovibrio that would determine the ability for a syntrophic lifestyle.

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