A review of microbial redox interactions with structural Fe in clay minerals

L. Pentráková, K. Su, M. Pentrák, J. W. Stucki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Virtually all 2:1 clay minerals contain some Fe in their crystal structure, which may undergo redox reaction with surrounding redox-active species causing potentially significant changes in the chemical and physical properties of the clay mineral and its surrounding matrix. This phenomenon was originally of interest mostly as a laboratory experiment using strong inorganic reduction agents, but the discovery that the structural Fe could be reduced by microorganisms in natural soils and sediments opened the way for this to become a practical method for altering the chemical and physical properties of soils and sediments in situ. The purpose of this report was to review the body of literature that has been published since the inception of this field of inquiry and to complement, update, and complete three other reviews that have been published during the intervening years. Studies of microbial reduction of structural Fe in smectites have revealed the extent of reduction, effects on chemical and physical properties, reversibility (or lack thereof) of microbial reduction, stoichiometry, possible reaction mechanism, and types of organisms involved. Some organisms are also capable of oxidizing structural Fe, such as in biotite or reduced smectite, while one appears to be able to do both. Illitic layers resist reduction by microorganisms, but this can be partially overcome by the presence of an electron shuttle compound such as anthraquinone-2,6- disulfonate, which also enhances the extent of reduction in smectites. Microorganisms may be employed as an in situ reducing agent to drive redox cycles for structural Fe in constituent clay minerals of soils and sediments, which in turn can serve as an abiotic source for redox-mediated remediation of environmental contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-560
Number of pages18
JournalClay Minerals
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Environmental contaminants
  • Iron
  • Microbial reduction
  • Microorganisms
  • Redox reactions
  • Smectite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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