Syntrophus conductive pili demonstrate that common hydrogen-donating syntrophs can have a direct electron transfer option

David Walker, Kelly Nevin, Dawn E Holmes, Amelia-Elena Rotaru, Joy Ward, Trevor Woodard, Jiaxin Zhu, Toshiyuki Ueki, Stephen Nonnenmann, Michael McInerney, Derek R. Lovley

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Syntrophic interspecies electron exchange is essential for the stable functioning of diverse anaerobic microbial communities. Hydrogen/formate interspecies electron transfer (HFIT), in which H2 and/or formate function as diffusible electron carriers, has been considered to be the primary mechanism for electron transfer because most common syntrophs were thought to lack biochemical components, such as electrically conductive pili (e-pili), necessary for direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET). Here we report that Syntrophus aciditrophicus, one of the most intensively studied microbial models for HFIT, produces e-pili and can grow via DIET. Heterologous expression of the putative S. aciditrophicus type IV pilin gene in Geobacter sulfurreducens yielded conductive pili of the same diameter (4 nm) and conductance of the native S. aciditrophicus pili and enabled long-range electron transport in G. sulfurreducens. S. aciditrophicus lacked abundant c-type cytochromes often associated with DIET. Pilin genes likely to yield e-pili were found in other genera of hydrogen/formate-producing syntrophs. The finding that DIET is a likely option for diverse syntrophs that are abundant in many anaerobic environments necessitates a reexamination of the paradigm that HFIT is the predominant mechanism for syntrophic electron exchange within anaerobic microbial communities of biogeochemical and practical significance.

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TidsskriftI S M E Journal
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)837–846
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2020


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