The bacterium Gs (Geobacter sulfurreducens) is capable of oxidizing a large variety of compounds relaying electrons out of the cytoplasm and across the membranes in a process designated as extracellular electron transfer. The trihaem cytochrome PpcA is highly abundant in Gs and is most probably the reservoir of electrons destined for the outer surface. In addition to its role in electron transfer pathways, we have previously shown that this protein could perform e−/H+ energy transduction. This mechanism is achieved by selecting the specific redox states that the protein can access during the redox cycle and might be related to the formation of proton electrochemical potential gradient across the periplasmic membrane. The regulatory role of haem III in the functional mechanism of PpcA was probed by replacing Met58, a residue that controls the solvent accessibility of haem III, with serine, aspartic acid, asparagine or lysine. The data obtained from the mutants showed that the preferred e−/H+ transfer pathway observed for PpcA is strongly dependent on the reduction potential of haem III. It is striking to note that one residue can fine tune the redox states that can be accessed by the trihaem cytochrome enough to alter the functional pathways.
electron transfer; Geobacter; multihaem cytochrome; NMR site-directed mutagenesis; EXSY, exchange spectroscopy; Gs, Geobacter sulfurreducens; HSQC, heteronuclear single-quantum coherence; NOESY, nuclear Overhauser enhancement spectroscopy; rmsd, root mean square deviation; 2D, two-dimensional
Previous studies failed to detect c-type cytochromes in Pelobacter species despite the fact that other close relatives in the Geobacteraceae, such as Geobacter and Desulfuromonas species, have abundant c-type cytochromes. Analysis of the recently completed genome sequence of Pelobacter carbinolicus revealed 14 open reading frames that could encode c-type cytochromes. Transcripts for all but one of these open reading frames were detected in acetoin-fermenting and/or Fe(III)-reducing cells. Three putative c-type cytochrome genes were expressed specifically during Fe(III) reduction, suggesting that the encoded proteins may participate in electron transfer to Fe(III). One of these proteins was a periplasmic triheme cytochrome with a high level of similarity to PpcA, which has a role in Fe(III) reduction in Geobacter sulfurreducens. Genes for heme biosynthesis and system II cytochrome c biogenesis were identified in the genome and shown to be expressed. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis gels of protein extracted from acetoin-fermenting P. carbinolicus cells contained three heme-staining bands which were confirmed by mass spectrometry to be among the 14 predicted c-type cytochromes. The number of cytochrome genes, the predicted amount of heme c per protein, and the ratio of heme-stained protein to total protein were much smaller in P. carbinolicus than in G. sulfurreducens. Furthermore, many of the c-type cytochromes that genetic studies have indicated are required for optimal Fe(III) reduction in G. sulfurreducens were not present in the P. carbinolicus genome. These results suggest that further evaluation of the functions of c-type cytochromes in the Geobacteraceae is warranted.
It has been proposed that Geobacter sulfurreducens requires conductive pili for long-range electron transport to Fe(III) oxides and for high-density current production in microbial fuel cells. In order to investigate this further, we constructed a strain of G. sulfurreducens, designated Aro-5, which produced pili with diminished conductivity. This was accomplished by modifying the amino acid sequence of PilA, the structural pilin protein. An alanine was substituted for each of the five aromatic amino acids in the carboxyl terminus of PilA, the region in which G. sulfurreducens PilA differs most significantly from the PilAs of microorganisms incapable of long-range extracellular electron transport. Strain Aro-5 produced pili that were properly decorated with the multiheme c-type cytochrome OmcS, which is essential for Fe(III) oxide reduction. However, pili preparations of the Aro-5 strain had greatly diminished conductivity and Aro-5 cultures were severely limited in their capacity to reduce Fe(III) compared to the control strain. Current production of the Aro-5 strain, with a graphite anode serving as the electron acceptor, was less than 10% of that of the control strain. The conductivity of the Aro-5 biofilms was 10-fold lower than the control strain’s. These results demonstrate that the pili of G. sulfurreducens must be conductive in order for the cells to be effective in extracellular long-range electron transport.
Extracellular electron transfer by Geobacter species plays an important role in the biogeochemistry of soils and sediments and has a number of bioenergy applications. For example, microbial reduction of Fe(III) oxide is one of the most geochemically significant processes in anaerobic soils, aquatic sediments, and aquifers, and Geobacter organisms are often abundant in such environments. Geobacter sulfurreducens produces the highest current densities of any known pure culture, and close relatives are often the most abundant organisms colonizing anodes in microbial fuel cells that harvest electricity from wastewater or aquatic sediments. The finding that a strain of G. sulfurreducens that produces pili with low conductivity is limited in these extracellular electron transport functions provides further insight into these environmentally significant processes.
The discovery of bacterial conductive structures, termed nanowires, has intrigued scientists for almost a decade. Nanowires enable bacteria to transfer electrons over micrometer distances to extracellular electron acceptors such as insoluble metal oxides or electrodes. Nanowires are pilus based and in Geobacter sulfurreducens are composed of the type IV pilin subunit PilA. Multiheme c-type cytochromes have been shown to attach to nanowire pili. Two hypotheses have been proposed for electron conduction in nanowires. The first (termed the metal-like conductivity or MLC hypothesis) claims that the pilus itself has the electron-conductive properties and the attached cytochromes mediate transfer to the final electron acceptor, whereas the second hypothesis (termed the superexchange conductivity or SEC hypothesis) suggests that electrons are “hopping” between heme groups in cytochromes closely aligned with the pilus as a scaffold. In their recent article in mBio, Vargas et al. [M. Vargas, N. S. Malvankar, P.-L. Tremblay, C. Leang, J. A. Smith, P. Patel, O. Snoeyenbos-West, K. P. Nevin, and D. R. Lovley, mBio 4(2):e00210-13, 2013] address this ambiguity through an analysis of strain Aro-5, a G. sulfurreducens PilA mutant lacking aromatic residues in the nonconserved portion of PilA. These residues were suspected of involvement in electron transport according to the MLC hypothesis. The G. sulfurreducens mutant had reduced conductive properties, lending important support to the MLC hypothesis. The data also highlight the need for further and more conclusive evidence for one or the other hypothesis.
The mechanisms by which Geobacter sulfurreducens transfers electrons through relatively thick (>50 µm) biofilms to electrodes acting as a sole electron acceptor were investigated. Biofilms of Geobacter sulfurreducens were grown either in flow-through systems with graphite anodes as the electron acceptor or on the same graphite surface, but with fumarate as the sole electron acceptor. Fumarate-grown biofilms were not immediately capable of significant current production, suggesting substantial physiological differences from current-producing biofilms. Microarray analysis revealed 13 genes in current-harvesting biofilms that had significantly higher transcript levels. The greatest increases were for pilA, the gene immediately downstream of pilA, and the genes for two outer c-type membrane cytochromes, OmcB and OmcZ. Down-regulated genes included the genes for the outer-membrane c-type cytochromes, OmcS and OmcT. Results of quantitative RT-PCR of gene transcript levels during biofilm growth were consistent with microarray results. OmcZ and the outer-surface c-type cytochrome, OmcE, were more abundant and OmcS was less abundant in current-harvesting cells. Strains in which pilA, the gene immediately downstream from pilA, omcB, omcS, omcE, or omcZ was deleted demonstrated that only deletion of pilA or omcZ severely inhibited current production and biofilm formation in current-harvesting mode. In contrast, these gene deletions had no impact on biofilm formation on graphite surfaces when fumarate served as the electron acceptor. These results suggest that biofilms grown harvesting current are specifically poised for electron transfer to electrodes and that, in addition to pili, OmcZ is a key component in electron transfer through differentiated G. sulfurreducens biofilms to electrodes.
Geobacter species play important roles in bioremediation of contaminated environments and in electricity production from waste organic matter in microbial fuel cells. To better understand physiology of Geobacter species, expression and function of citrate synthase, a key enzyme in the TCA cycle that is important for organic acid oxidation in Geobacter species, was investigated. Geobacter sulfurreducens did not require citrate synthase for growth with hydrogen as the electron donor and fumarate as the electron acceptor. Expression of the citrate synthase gene, gltA, was repressed by a transcription factor under this growth condition. Functional and comparative genomics approaches, coupled with genetic and biochemical assays, identified a novel transcription factor termed HgtR that acts as a repressor for gltA. Further analysis revealed that HgtR is a global regulator for genes involved in biosynthesis and energy generation in Geobacter species. The hgtR gene was essential for growth with hydrogen, during which hgtR expression was induced. These findings provide important new insights into the mechanisms by which Geobacter species regulate their central metabolism under different environmental conditions.
The ability of Pelobacter carbinolicus to oxidize electron donors with electron transfer to the anodes of microbial fuel cells was evaluated because microorganisms closely related to Pelobacter species are generally abundant on the anodes of microbial fuel cells harvesting electricity from aquatic sediments. P. carbinolicus could not produce current in a microbial fuel cell with electron donors which support Fe(III) oxide reduction by this organism. Current was produced using a coculture of P. carbinolicus and Geobacter sulfurreducens with ethanol as the fuel. Ethanol consumption was associated with the transitory accumulation of acetate and hydrogen. G. sulfurreducens alone could not metabolize ethanol, suggesting that P. carbinolicus grew in the fuel cell by converting ethanol to hydrogen and acetate, which G. sulfurreducens oxidized with electron transfer to the anode. Up to 83% of the electrons available in ethanol were recovered as electricity and in the metabolic intermediate acetate. Hydrogen consumption by G. sulfurreducens was important for ethanol metabolism by P. carbinolicus. Confocal microscopy and analysis of 16S rRNA genes revealed that half of the cells growing on the anode surface were P. carbinolicus, but there was a nearly equal number of planktonic cells of P. carbinolicus. In contrast, G. sulfurreducens was primarily attached to the anode. P. carbinolicus represents the first Fe(III) oxide-reducing microorganism found to be unable to produce current in a microbial fuel cell, providing the first suggestion that the mechanisms for extracellular electron transfer to Fe(III) oxides and fuel cell anodes may be different.
Geobacter sulfurreducens is a well-studied representative of the Geobacteraceae, which play a critical role in organic matter oxidation coupled to Fe(III) reduction, bioremediation of groundwater contaminated with organics or metals, and electricity production from waste organic matter. In order to investigate G. sulfurreducens central metabolism and electron transport, a metabolic model which integrated genome-based predictions with available genetic and physiological data was developed via the constraint-based modeling approach. Evaluation of the rates of proton production and consumption in the extracellular and cytoplasmic compartments revealed that energy conservation with extracellular electron acceptors, such as Fe(III), was limited relative to that associated with intracellular acceptors. This limitation was attributed to lack of cytoplasmic proton consumption during reduction of extracellular electron acceptors. Model-based analysis of the metabolic cost of producing an extracellular electron shuttle to promote electron transfer to insoluble Fe(III) oxides demonstrated why Geobacter species, which do not produce shuttles, have an energetic advantage over shuttle-producing Fe(III) reducers in subsurface environments. In silico analysis also revealed that the metabolic network of G. sulfurreducens could synthesize amino acids more efficiently than that of Escherichia coli due to the presence of a pyruvate-ferredoxin oxidoreductase, which catalyzes synthesis of pyruvate from acetate and carbon dioxide in a single step. In silico phenotypic analysis of deletion mutants demonstrated the capability of the model to explore the flexibility of G. sulfurreducens central metabolism and correctly predict mutant phenotypes. These results demonstrate that iterative modeling coupled with experimentation can accelerate the understanding of the physiology of poorly studied but environmentally relevant organisms and may help optimize their practical applications.
An extracellular electron carrier excreted into the growth medium by cells of Geobacter sulfurreducens was identified as a c-type cytochrome. The cytochrome was found to be distributed in about equal amounts in the membrane fraction, the periplasmic space, and the surrounding medium during all phases of growth with acetate plus fumarate. It was isolated from periplasmic preparations and purified to homogeneity by cation-exchange chromatography, gel filtration, and hydrophobic interaction chromatography. The electrophoretically homogeneous cytochrome had a molecular mass of 9.57 ± 0.02 kDa and exhibited in its reduced state absorption maxima at wavelengths of 552, 522, and 419 nm. The midpoint redox potential determined by redox titration was −0.167 V. With respect to molecular mass, redox properties, and molecular features, this cytochrome exhibited its highest similarity to the cytochromes c of Desulfovibrio salexigens and Desulfuromonas acetoxidans. The G. sulfurreducens cytochrome c reduced ferrihydrite (Fe(OH)3), Fe(III) nitrilotriacetic acid, Fe(III) citrate, and manganese dioxide at high rates. Elemental sulfur, anthraquinone disulfonate, and humic acids were reduced more slowly. G. sulfurreducens reduced the cytochrome with acetate as an electron donor and oxidized it with fumarate. Wolinella succinogenes was able to reduce externally provided cytochrome c of G. sulfurreducens with molecular hydrogen or formate as an electron donor and oxidized it with fumarate or nitrate as an electron acceptor. A coculture could be established in which G. sulfurreducens reduced the cytochrome with acetate, and the reduced cytochrome was reoxidized by W. succinogenes in the presence of nitrate. We conclude that this cytochrome can act as iron(III) reductase for electron transfer to insoluble iron hydroxides or to sulfur, manganese dioxide, or other oxidized compounds, and it can transfer electrons to partner bacteria.
Geobacter species grow by transferring electrons out of the cell - either to Fe(III)-oxides or to man-made substances like energy-harvesting electrodes. Study of Geobacter sulfurreducens has shown that TCA cycle enzymes, inner-membrane respiratory enzymes, and periplasmic and outer-membrane cytochromes are required. Here we present comparative analysis of six Geobacter genomes, including species from the clade that predominates in the subsurface. Conservation of proteins across the genomes was determined to better understand the evolution of Geobacter species and to create a metabolic model applicable to subsurface environments.
The results showed that enzymes for acetate transport and oxidation, and for proton transport across the inner membrane were well conserved. An NADH dehydrogenase, the ATP synthase, and several TCA cycle enzymes were among the best conserved in the genomes. However, most of the cytochromes required for Fe(III)-reduction were not, including many of the outer-membrane cytochromes. While conservation of cytochromes was poor, an abundance and diversity of cytochromes were found in every genome, with duplications apparent in several species.
These results indicate there is a common pathway for acetate oxidation and energy generation across the family and in the last common ancestor. They also suggest that while cytochromes are important for extracellular electron transport, the path of electrons across the periplasm and outer membrane is variable. This combination of abundant cytochromes with weak sequence conservation suggests they may not be specific terminal reductases, but rather may be important in their heme-bearing capacity, as sinks for electrons between the inner-membrane electron transport chain and the extracellular acceptor.
Previous work has shown that microbial communities in As-mobilizing sediments from West Bengal were dominated by Geobacter species. Thus, the potential of Geobacter sulfurreducens to mobilize arsenic via direct enzymatic reduction and indirect mechanisms linked to Fe(III) reduction was analyzed. G. sulfurreducens was unable to conserve energy for growth via the dissimilatory reduction of As(V), although it was able to grow in medium containing fumarate as the terminal electron acceptor in the presence of 500 μM As(V). There was also no evidence of As(III) in culture supernatants, suggesting that resistance to 500 μM As(V) was not mediated by a classical arsenic resistance operon, which would rely on the intracellular reduction of As(V) and the efflux of As(III). When the cells were grown using soluble Fe(III) as an electron acceptor in the presence of As(V), the Fe(II)-bearing mineral vivianite was formed. This was accompanied by the removal of As, predominantly as As(V), from solution. Biogenic siderite (ferrous carbonate) was also able to remove As from solution. When the organism was grown using insoluble ferrihydrite as an electron acceptor, Fe(III) reduction resulted in the formation of magnetite, again accompanied by the nearly quantitative sorption of As(V). These results demonstrate that G. sulfurreducens, a model Fe(III)-reducing bacterium, did not reduce As(V) enzymatically, despite the apparent genetic potential to mediate this transformation. However, the reduction of Fe(III) led to the formation of Fe(II)-bearing phases that are able to capture arsenic species and could act as sinks for arsenic in sediments.
Geobacter species are important Fe(III) reducers in a diversity of soils and sediments. Mechanisms for Fe(III) oxide reduction have been studied in detail in Geobacter sulfurreducens, but a number of the most thoroughly studied outer surface components of G. sulfurreducens, particularly c-type cytochromes, are not well conserved among Geobacter species. In order to identify cellular components potentially important for Fe(III) oxide reduction in Geobacter metallireducens, gene transcript abundance was compared in cells grown on Fe(III) oxide or soluble Fe(III) citrate with whole-genome microarrays. Outer-surface cytochromes were also identified. Deletion of genes for c-type cytochromes that had higher transcript abundance during growth on Fe(III) oxides and/or were detected in the outer-surface protein fraction identified six c-type cytochrome genes, that when deleted removed the capacity for Fe(III) oxide reduction. Several of the c-type cytochromes which were essential for Fe(III) oxide reduction in G. metallireducens have homologs in G. sulfurreducens that are not important for Fe(III) oxide reduction. Other genes essential for Fe(III) oxide reduction included a gene predicted to encode an NHL (Ncl-1–HT2A–Lin-41) repeat-containing protein and a gene potentially involved in pili glycosylation. Genes associated with flagellum-based motility, chemotaxis, and pili had higher transcript abundance during growth on Fe(III) oxide, consistent with the previously proposed importance of these components in Fe(III) oxide reduction. These results demonstrate that there are similarities in extracellular electron transfer between G. metallireducens and G. sulfurreducens but the outer-surface c-type cytochromes involved in Fe(III) oxide reduction are different.
Geobacter metallireducens was the first organism that can be grown in pure culture to completely oxidize organic compounds with Fe(III) oxide serving as electron acceptor. Geobacter species, including G. sulfurreducens and G. metallireducens, are used for bioremediation and electricity generation from waste organic matter and renewable biomass. The constraint-based modeling approach enables the development of genome-scale in silico models that can predict the behavior of complex biological systems and their responses to the environments. Such a modeling approach was applied to provide physiological and ecological insights on the metabolism of G. metallireducens.
The genome-scale metabolic model of G. metallireducens was constructed to include 747 genes and 697 reactions. Compared to the G. sulfurreducens model, the G. metallireducens metabolic model contains 118 unique reactions that reflect many of G. metallireducens' specific metabolic capabilities. Detailed examination of the G. metallireducens model suggests that its central metabolism contains several energy-inefficient reactions that are not present in the G. sulfurreducens model. Experimental biomass yield of G. metallireducens growing on pyruvate was lower than the predicted optimal biomass yield. Microarray data of G. metallireducens growing with benzoate and acetate indicated that genes encoding these energy-inefficient reactions were up-regulated by benzoate. These results suggested that the energy-inefficient reactions were likely turned off during G. metallireducens growth with acetate for optimal biomass yield, but were up-regulated during growth with complex electron donors such as benzoate for rapid energy generation. Furthermore, several computational modeling approaches were applied to accelerate G. metallireducens research. For example, growth of G. metallireducens with different electron donors and electron acceptors were studied using the genome-scale metabolic model, which provided a fast and cost-effective way to understand the metabolism of G. metallireducens.
We have developed a genome-scale metabolic model for G. metallireducens that features both metabolic similarities and differences to the published model for its close relative, G. sulfurreducens. Together these metabolic models provide an important resource for improving strategies on bioremediation and bioenergy generation.
The regulon of the sigma factor RpoS was defined in Geobacter sulfurreducens by using a combination of DNA microarray expression profiles and proteomics. An rpoS mutant was examined under steady-state conditions with acetate as an electron donor and fumarate as an electron acceptor and with additional transcriptional profiling using Fe(III) as an electron acceptor. Expression analysis revealed that RpoS acts as both a positive and negative regulator. Many of the RpoS-dependent genes determined play roles in energy metabolism, including the tricarboxylic acid cycle, signal transduction, transport, protein synthesis and degradation, and amino acid metabolism and transport. As expected, RpoS activated genes involved in oxidative stress resistance and adaptation to nutrient limitation. Transcription of the cytochrome c oxidase operon, necessary for G. sulfurreducens growth using oxygen as an electron acceptor, and expression of at least 13 c-type cytochromes, including one previously shown to participate in Fe(III) reduction (MacA), were RpoS dependent. Analysis of a subset of the rpoS mutant proteome indicated that 15 major protein species showed reproducible differences in abundance relative to those of the wild-type strain. Protein identification using mass spectrometry indicated that the expression of seven of these proteins correlated with the microarray data. Collectively, these results indicate that RpoS exerts global effects on G. sulfurreducens physiology and that RpoS is vital to G. sulfurreducens survival under conditions typically encountered in its native subsurface environments.
Geobacter sulfurreducens contains a 9.6-kDa c-type cytochrome that was previously proposed to serve as an extracellular electron shuttle to insoluble Fe(III) oxides. However, when the cytochrome was added to washed-cell suspensions of G. sulfurreducens it did not enhance Fe(III) oxide reduction, whereas similar concentrations of the known electron shuttle, anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate, greatly stimulated Fe(III) oxide reduction. Furthermore, analysis of the extracellular c-type cytochromes in cultures of G. sulfurreducens demonstrated that the dominant c-type cytochrome was not the 9.6-kDa cytochrome, but rather a 41-kDa cytochrome. These results and other considerations suggest that the 9.6-kDa cytochrome is not an important extracellular electron shuttle to Fe(III) oxides.
In Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, oxaloacetate synthesis is a major and essential CO2-fixation reaction. This methanogenic archaeon possesses two oxaloacetate-synthesizing enzymes, pyruvate carboxylase and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase. The phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase from this organism was purified to homogeneity. The subunit size of this homotetrameric protein was 55 kDa, which is about half that of all known bacterial and eukaryotic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylases (PPCs). The NH2-terminal sequence identified this enzyme as the product of MTH943, an open reading frame with no assigned function in the genome sequence. A BLAST search did not show an obvious sequence similarity between MTH943 and known PPCs, which are generally well conserved. This is the first report of a new type of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase that we call PpcA (“A” for “archaeal”). Homologs to PpcA were present in most archaeal genomic sequences, but only in three bacterial (Clostridium perfringens, Oenococcus oeni, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides) and no eukaryotic genomes. PpcA was the only recognizable oxaloacetate-producing enzyme in Methanopyrus kandleri, a hydrothermal vent organism. Each PpcA-containing organism lacked a PPC homolog. The activity of M. thermautotrophicus PpcA was not influenced by acetyl coenzyme A and was about 50 times less sensitive to aspartate than the Escherichia coli PPC. The catalytic core (including His138, Arg587, and Gly883) of the E. coli PPC was partly conserved in PpcA, but three of four aspartate-binding residues (Lys773, Arg832, and Asn881) were not. PPCs probably evolved from PpcA through a process that added allosteric sites to the enzyme. The reverse is also equally possible.
Previous studies have demonstrated that Geobacter sulfurreducens requires the c-type cytochrome OmcZ, which is present in large (OmcZL; 50-kDa) and small (OmcZS; 30-kDa) forms, for optimal current production in microbial fuel cells. This protein was further characterized to aid in understanding its role in current production. Subcellular-localization studies suggested that OmcZS was the predominant extracellular form of OmcZ. N- and C-terminal amino acid sequence analysis of purified OmcZS and molecular weight measurements indicated that OmcZS is a cleaved product of OmcZL retaining all 8 hemes, including 1 heme with the unusual c-type heme-binding motif CX14CH. The purified OmcZS was remarkably thermally stable (thermal-denaturing temperature, 94.2°C). Redox titration analysis revealed that the midpoint reduction potential of OmcZS is approximately −220 mV (versus the standard hydrogen electrode [SHE]) with nonequivalent heme groups that cover a large reduction potential range (−420 to −60 mV). OmcZS transferred electrons in vitro to a diversity of potential extracellular electron acceptors, such as Fe(III) citrate, U(VI), Cr(VI), Au(III), Mn(IV) oxide, and the humic substance analogue anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate, but not Fe(III) oxide. The biochemical properties and extracellular localization of OmcZ suggest that it is well suited for promoting electron transfer in current-producing biofilms of G. sulfurreducens.
Outer membrane cytochromes are often proposed as likely agents for electron transfer to extracellular electron acceptors, such as Fe(III). The omcF gene in the dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducing microorganism Geobacter sulfurreducens is predicted to code for a small outer membrane monoheme c-type cytochrome. An OmcF-deficient strain was constructed, and its ability to reduce and grow on Fe(III) citrate was found to be impaired. Following a prolonged lag phase (150 h), the OmcF-deficient strain developed the ability to grow in Fe(III) citrate medium with doubling times and yields that were ca. 145% and 70% of those of the wild type, respectively. Comparison of the c-type cytochrome contents of outer membrane-enriched fractions prepared from wild-type and OmcF-deficient cultures confirmed the outer membrane association of OmcF and revealed multiple changes in the cytochrome content of the OmcF-deficient strain. These changes included loss of expression of two previously characterized outer membrane cytochromes, OmcB and OmcC, and overexpression of a third previously characterized outer membrane cytochrome, OmcS, during growth on Fe(III) citrate. The omcB and omcC transcripts could not be detected in the OmcF-deficient mutant by either reverse transcriptase PCR or Northern blot analyses. Expression of the omcF gene in trans restored both the capacity of the OmcF-deficient mutant to reduce Fe(III) and wild-type levels of omcB and omcC mRNA and protein. Thus, elimination of OmcF may impair Fe(III) reduction by influencing expression of OmcB, which has previously been demonstrated to play a critical role in Fe(III) reduction.
Metal reduction is thought to take place at or near the bacterial outer membrane and, thus, outer membrane proteins in the model dissimilatory metal-reducing organism Geobacter sulfurreducens are of interest to understand the mechanisms of Fe(III) reduction in the Geobacter species that are the predominant Fe(III) reducers in many environments. Previous studies have implicated periplasmic and outer membrane cytochromes in electron transfer to metals. Here we show that the most abundant outer membrane protein of G. sulfurreducens, OmpJ, is not a cytochrome yet it is required for metal respiration.
When outer membrane proteins of G. sulfurreducens were separated via SDS-PAGE, one protein, designated OmpJ (outer membrane protein J), was particularly abundant. The encoding gene, which was identified from mass spectrometry analysis of peptide fragments, is present in other Geobacteraceae, but not in organisms outside this family. The predicted localization and structure of the OmpJ protein suggested that it was a porin. Deletion of the ompJ gene in G. sulfurreducens produced a strain that grew as well as the wild-type strain with fumarate as the electron acceptor but could not grow with metals, such as soluble or insoluble Fe (III) and insoluble Mn (IV) oxide, as the electron acceptor. The heme c content in the mutant strain was ca. 50% of the wild-type and there was a widespread loss of multiple cytochromes from soluble and membrane fractions. Transmission electron microscopy analyses of mutant cells revealed an unusually enlarged periplasm, which is likely to trigger extracytoplasmic stress response mechanisms leading to the degradation of periplasmic and/or outer membrane proteins, such as cytochromes, required for metal reduction. Thus, the loss of the capacity for extracellular electron transport in the mutant could be due to the missing c-type cytochromes, or some more direct, but as yet unknown, role of OmpJ in metal reduction.
OmpJ is a putative porin found in the outer membrane of the model metal reducer G. sulfurreducens that is required for respiration of extracellular electron acceptors such as soluble and insoluble metals. The effect of OmpJ in extracellular electron transfer is indirect, as OmpJ is required to keep the integrity of the periplasmic space necessary for proper folding and functioning of periplasmic and outer membrane electron transport components. The exclusive presence of ompJ in members of the Geobacteraceae family as well as its role in metal reduction suggest that the ompJ sequence may be useful in tracking the growth or activity of Geobacteraceae in sedimentary environments.
A DNA microarray representing the genome of Geobacter sulfurreducens was constructed for use in global gene expression profiling of cells under steady-state conditions with acetate as the electron donor and Fe(III) or fumarate as the electron acceptor. Reproducible differences in transcript levels were also observed in comparisons between cells grown with ammonia and those fixing atmospheric nitrogen. There was a high correlation between changes in transcript levels determined with microarray analyses and an evaluation of a subset of the genome with quantitative PCR. As expected, cells required to fix nitrogen had higher levels of transcripts of genes associated with nitrogen fixation, further demonstrating that the microarray approach could reliably detect important physiological changes. Cells grown with Fe(III) as the electron acceptor had higher levels of transcripts for omcB, a gene coding for an outer membrane c-type cytochrome that is essential for Fe(III) reduction. Several other c-type cytochrome genes also appeared to be up-regulated. An unexpected result was significantly higher levels of transcripts for genes which have a role in metal efflux, potentially suggesting the importance of maintaining metal homeostasis during release of soluble metals when reducing Fe(III). A substantial proportion (30%) of significantly expressed genes during Fe(III) reduction were genes of unknown function or hypothetical proteins, suggesting differences in Fe(III) reduction physiology among microorganisms which perform this metabolic process.
The predominance of Geobacter species in environments in which Fe(III) reduction is important has suggested that Fe(III) reduction rates might be estimated in Geobacter-dominated environments by assessing in situ activity with molecular techniques. To determine whether mRNA levels of key respiratory genes might be correlated with respiration rates in Geobacter sulfurreducens, studies were conducted with fumarate as the electron acceptor and acetate as the limiting electron donor in anaerobic continuous cultures. Levels of mRNA for a fumarate reductase gene, frdA, quantified by real-time reverse transcription-PCR were directly correlated with fumarate reduction rates. In similar studies with Fe(III) as the electron acceptor, mRNA levels for omcB, a gene for an outer membrane c-type cytochrome involved in Fe(III) reduction, were positively correlated with Fe(III) reduction rates. Levels of mRNA for frdA and omcB were also positively correlated with fumarate and Fe(III) reduction rates, respectively, when growth was limited by the availability of fumarate or Fe(III), but mRNA levels were higher than in acetate-limited cultures. Levels of mRNA for omcC, which encodes a c-type cytochrome highly similar to OmcB but not necessary for Fe(III) reduction, followed patterns different than those of omcB. This agrees with the previous finding that OmcC is not involved in Fe(III) reduction and suggests that changes in mRNA levels of omcB are related to its role in Fe(III) reduction. These results demonstrate that mRNA levels for respiratory genes might be used to estimate in situ Fe(III) reduction rates in Geobacter-dominated environments but suggest that information on environmental conditions and/or the metabolic state of Geobacter species is also required for accurate rate estimates.
Members of the family Geobacteraceae are commonly the predominant Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms in sedimentary environments, as well as on the surface of energy-harvesting electrodes, and are able to effectively couple the oxidation of acetate to the reduction of external electron acceptors. Citrate synthase activity of these organisms is of interest due to its key role in acetate metabolism. Prior sequencing of the genome of Geobacter sulfurreducens revealed a putative citrate synthase sequence related to the citrate synthases of eukaryotes. All citrate synthase activity in G. sulfurreducens could be resolved to a single 49-kDa protein via affinity chromatography. The enzyme was successfully expressed at high levels in Escherichia coli with similar properties as the native enzyme, and kinetic parameters were comparable to related citrate synthases (kcat = 8.3 s−1; Km = 14.1 and 4.3 μM for acetyl coenzyme A and oxaloacetate, respectively). The enzyme was dimeric and was slightly inhibited by ATP (Ki = 1.9 mM for acetyl coenzyme A), which is a known inhibitor for many eukaryotic, dimeric citrate synthases. NADH, an allosteric inhibitor of prokaryotic hexameric citrate synthases, did not affect enzyme activity. Unlike most prokaryotic dimeric citrate synthases, the enzyme did not have any methylcitrate synthase activity. A unique feature of the enzyme, in contrast to citrate synthases from both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, was a lack of stimulation by K+ ions. Similar citrate synthase sequences were detected in a diversity of other Geobacteraceae members. This first characterization of a eukaryotic-like citrate synthase from a prokaryote provides new insight into acetate metabolism in Geobacteraceae members and suggests a molecular target for tracking the presence and activity of these organisms in the environment.
Geobacter species often play an important role in bioremediation of environments contaminated with metals or organics and show promise for harvesting electricity from waste organic matter in microbial fuel cells. The ability of Geobacter species to fix atmospheric nitrogen is an important metabolic feature for these applications. We identified novel regulatory cascades controlling nitrogen-fixation gene expression in Geobacter sulfurreducens. Unlike the regulatory mechanisms known in other nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, nitrogen-fixation gene regulation in G. sulfurreducens is controlled by two two-component His–Asp phosphorelay systems. One of these systems appears to be the master regulatory system that activates transcription of the majority of nitrogen-fixation genes and represses a gene encoding glutamate dehydrogenase during nitrogen fixation. The other system whose expression is directly activated by the master regulatory system appears to control by antitermination the expression of a subset of the nitrogen-fixation genes whose transcription is activated by the master regulatory system and whose promoter contains transcription termination signals. This study provides a new paradigm for nitrogen-fixation gene regulation.
A 36-kDa diheme c-type cytochrome abundant in Fe(III)-respiring Geobacter sulfurreducens, designated MacA, was more highly expressed during growth with Fe(III) as the electron acceptor than with fumarate. Although MacA has homology to proteins with in vitro peroxidase activity, deletion of macA had no impact on response to oxidative stress. However, the capacity for Fe(III) reduction was greatly diminished, indicating that MacA, which is predicted to be localized in the periplasm, is a key intermediate in electron transfer to Fe(III).
Geobacter sulfurreducens is a member of the Geobacter species, which are capable of oxidation of organic waste coupled to the reduction of heavy metals and electrode with applications in bioremediation and bioenergy generation. While the metabolism of this organism has been studied through the development of a stoichiometry based genome-scale metabolic model, the associated regulatory network has not yet been well studied. In this manuscript, we report on the implementation of a thermodynamics based metabolic flux model for Geobacter sulfurreducens. We use this updated model to identify reactions that are subject to regulatory control in the metabolic network of G. sulfurreducens using thermodynamic variability analysis.
As a first step, we have validated the regulatory sites and bottleneck reactions predicted by the thermodynamic flux analysis in E. coli by evaluating the expression ranges of the corresponding genes. We then identified ten reactions in the metabolic network of G. sulfurreducens that are predicted to be candidates for regulation. We then compared the free energy ranges for these reactions with the corresponding gene expression fold changes under conditions of different environmental and genetic perturbations and show that the model predictions of regulation are consistent with data. In addition, we also identify reactions that operate close to equilibrium and show that the experimentally determined exchange coefficient (a measure of reversibility) is significant for these reactions.
Application of the thermodynamic constraints resulted in identification of potential bottleneck reactions not only from the central metabolism but also from the nucleotide and amino acid subsystems, thereby showing the highly coupled nature of the thermodynamic constraints. In addition, thermodynamic variability analysis serves as a valuable tool in estimating the ranges of ΔrG' of every reaction in the model leading to the prediction of regulatory sites in the metabolic network, thereby characterizing the regulatory network in both a model organism such as E. coli as well as a non model organism such as G. sulfurreducens.