Fermentative iron-reducing organisms have been identified in a variety of environments. Instead of coupling iron reduction to respiration, they have been consistently observed to use ferric iron minerals as an electron sink for fermentation. In the present study, a fermentative iron reducer, Orenia metallireducens strain Z6, was shown to use iron reduction to enhance fermentation not only by consuming electron equivalents, but also by generating alkalinity that effectively buffers the pH. Fermentation of glucose by this organism in the presence of a ferric oxide mineral, hematite (Fe2O3), resulted in enhanced glucose decomposition compared with fermentation in the absence of an iron source. Parallel evidence (i.e., genomic reconstruction, metabolomics, thermodynamic analyses, and calculation of electron transfer) suggested hematite reduction as a proton-consuming reaction effectively consumed acid produced by fermentation. The buffering effect of hematite was further supported by a greater extent of glucose utilization by strain Z6 in media with increasing buffer capacity. Such maintenance of a stable pH through hematite reduction for enhanced glucose fermentation complements the thermodynamic interpretation of interactions between microbial iron reduction and other biogeochemical processes. This newly discovered feature of iron reducer metabolism also has significant implications for groundwater management and contaminant remediation by providing microbially mediated buffering systems for the associated microbial and/or chemical reactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry