Extracellular Electron Transport (EET): Metal Cycling in Extreme Places

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Kenneth H Nealson, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Extracellular electron transport, or EET, is the process whereby bacteria either donate electrons to an electron acceptor (usually insoluble), or take up electrons from and electron donor (usually insoluble) that is located outside the cell. Iron cycling is inherently linked to EET, as both reduced iron (electron donors), and oxidized iron (electron acceptors) can be found as insoluble minerals, and require specialized molecular machines to accomplish these extracellular geobiological reactions. Bacteria in the group Shewanella are able to catalyze EET in both directions, and are involved with a number of different iron conversions, but are not good role models for extreme conditions – to our knowledge there are no shewanellae that are tolerant to extremes of temperature or pH, the two usual. This being said, when cells are energy starved via limitation for electron acceptors, they respond by turning on the system(s) for EET. Thus, in this presentation the known mechanism(s) of EET will be discussed, along with recent findings and reports of EET-capable organisms from a variety of extreme environments. From these data, I put forward the hypothesis that there are many microbes (many of them from extreme environments) that will be resistant to cultivation by “standard microbiological methods”, yet lend themselves well to cultivation via electrochemical methods.