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Microbiol Rev. 1991 June; 55(2): 259–287.
PMCID: PMC372814

Dissimilatory Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction.


The oxidation of organic matter coupled to the reduction of Fe(III) or Mn(IV) is one of the most important biogeochemical reactions in aquatic sediments, soils, and groundwater. This process, which may have been the first globally significant mechanism for the oxidation of organic matter to carbon dioxide, plays an important role in the oxidation of natural and contaminant organic compounds in a variety of environments and contributes to other phenomena of widespread significance such as the release of metals and nutrients into water supplies, the magnetization of sediments, and the corrosion of metal. Until recently, much of the Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction in sedimentary environments was considered to be the result of nonenzymatic processes. However, microorganisms which can effectively couple the oxidation of organic compounds to the reduction of Fe(III) or Mn(IV) have recently been discovered. With Fe(III) or Mn(IV) as the sole electron acceptor, these organisms can completely oxidize fatty acids, hydrogen, or a variety of monoaromatic compounds. This metabolism provides energy to support growth. Sugars and amino acids can be completely oxidized by the cooperative activity of fermentative microorganisms and hydrogen- and fatty-acid-oxidizing Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reducers. This provides a microbial mechanism for the oxidation of the complex assemblage of sedimentary organic matter in Fe(III)- or Mn(IV)-reducing environments. The available evidence indicates that this enzymatic reduction of Fe(III) or Mn(IV) accounts for most of the oxidation of organic matter coupled to reduction of Fe(III) and Mn(IV) in sedimentary environments. Little is known about the diversity and ecology of the microorganisms responsible for Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction, and only preliminary studies have been conducted on the physiology and biochemistry of this process.

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