Ferrihydrite-associated organic matter (OM) stimulates reduction by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and a complex microbial consortia
Abstract. The formation of Fe(III) oxides in natural environments occurs in the presence of natural organic matter (OM), resulting in the formation of OM–mineral complexes that form through adsorption or coprecipitation processes. Thus, microbial Fe(III) reduction in natural environments most often occurs in the presence of OM–mineral complexes rather than pure Fe(III) minerals. This study investigated to what extent does the content of adsorbed or coprecipitated OM on ferrihydrite influence the rate of Fe(III) reduction by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, a model Fe(III)-reducing microorganism, in comparison to a microbial consortium extracted from the acidic, Fe-rich Schlöppnerbrunnen fen. We found that increased OM content led to increased rates of microbial Fe(III) reduction by S. oneidensis MR-1 in contrast to earlier findings with the model organism Geobacter bremensis. Ferrihydrite–OM coprecipitates were reduced slightly faster than ferrihydrites with adsorbed OM. Surprisingly, the complex microbial consortia stimulated by a mixture of electrons donors (lactate, acetate, and glucose) mimics S. oneidensis under the same experimental Fe(III)-reducing conditions suggesting similar mechanisms of electron transfer whether or not the OM is adsorbed or coprecipitated to the mineral surfaces. We also followed potential shifts of the microbial community during the incubation via 16S rRNA gene sequence analyses to determine variations due to the presence of adsorbed or coprecipitated OM–ferrihydrite complexes in contrast to pure ferrihydrite. Community profile analyses showed no enrichment of typical model Fe(III)-reducing bacteria, such as Shewanella or Geobacter sp., but an enrichment of fermenters (e.g., Enterobacteria) during pure ferrihydrite incubations which are known to use Fe(III) as an electron sink. Instead, OM–mineral complexes favored the enrichment of microbes including Desulfobacteria and Pelosinus sp., both of which can utilize lactate and acetate as an electron donor under Fe(III)-reducing conditions. In summary, this study shows that increasing concentrations of OM in OM–mineral complexes determines microbial Fe(III) reduction rates and shapes the microbial community structure involved in the reductive dissolution of ferrihydrite. Similarities observed between the complex Fe(III)-reducing microbial consortia and the model Fe(III)-reducer S. oneidensis MR-1 suggest electron-shuttling mechanisms dominate in OM-rich environments, including soils, sediments, and fens, where natural OM interacts with Fe(III) oxides during mineral formation.