Enhancement of survival and electricity production in an engineered bacterium by light-driven proton pumping

Ethan T. Johnson, Daniel B. Baron, Belén Naranjo, Daniel R Bond, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Jeffrey A Gralnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Microorganisms can use complex photosystems or light-dependent proton pumps to generate membrane potential and/or reduce electron carriers to support growth. The discovery that proteorhodopsin is a light-dependent proton pump that can be expressed readily in recombinant bacteria enables development of new strategies to probe microbial physiology and to engineer microbes with new light-driven properties. Here, we describe functional expression of proteorhodopsin and light-induced changes in membrane potential in the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1. We report that there were significant increases in electrical current generation during illumination of electrochemical chambers containing S. oneidensis expressing proteorhodopsin. We present evidence that an engineered strain is able to consume lactate at an increased rate when it is illuminated, which is consistent with the hypothesis that proteorhodopsin activity enhances lactate uptake by increasing the proton motive force. Our results demonstrate that there is coupling of a light-driven process to electricity generation in a nonphotosynthetic engineered bacterium. Expression of proteorhodopsin also preserved the viability of the bacterium under nutrient-limited conditions, providing evidence that fulfillment of basic energy needs of organisms may explain the widespread distribution of proteorhodopsin in marine environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4123-4129
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


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