Syntrophic growth via quinone-mediated interspecies electron transfer

Jessica A Smith, Kelly P Nevin, Derek R Lovley
Frontiers in Microbiology 2015, 6: 121
The mechanisms by which microbial species exchange electrons are of interest because interspecies electron transfer can expand the metabolic capabilities of microbial communities. Previous studies with the humic substance analog anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS) suggested that quinone-mediated interspecies electron transfer (QUIET) is feasible, but it was not determined if sufficient energy is available from QUIET to support the growth of both species. Furthermore, there have been no previous studies on the mechanisms for the oxidation of anthrahydroquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AHQDS). A co-culture of Geobacter metallireducens and G. sulfurreducens metabolized ethanol with the reduction of fumarate much faster in the presence of AQDS, and there was an increase in cell protein. G. sulfurreducens was more abundant, consistent with G. sulfurreducens obtaining electrons from acetate that G. metallireducens produced from ethanol, as well as from AHQDS. Co-cultures initiated with a citrate synthase-deficient strain of G. sulfurreducens that was unable to use acetate as an electron donor also metabolized ethanol with the reduction of fumarate and cell growth, but acetate accumulated over time. G. sulfurreducens and G. metallireducens were equally abundant in these co-cultures reflecting the inability of the citrate synthase-deficient strain of G. sulfurreducens to metabolize acetate. Evaluation of the mechanisms by which G. sulfurreducens accepts electrons from AHQDS demonstrated that a strain deficient in outer-surface c-type cytochromes that are required for AQDS reduction was as effective at QUIET as the wild-type strain. Deletion of additional genes previously implicated in extracellular electron transfer also had no impact on QUIET. These results demonstrate that QUIET can yield sufficient energy to support the growth of both syntrophic partners, but that the mechanisms by which electrons are derived from extracellular hydroquinones require further investigation.

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