Zetaproteobacteria are obligate chemolithoautotrophs that oxidize Fe(II) as an electron and energy source, and play significant roles in nutrient cycling and primary production in the marine biosphere. Zetaproteobacteria thrive under microoxic conditions near oxic–anoxic interfaces, where they catalyze Fe(II) oxidation faster than the abiotic reaction with oxygen. Neutrophilic Fe(II) oxidizing bacteria produce copious amounts of insoluble iron oxyhydroxides as a by-product of their metabolism. Oxygen consumption by aerobic respiration and formation of iron oxyhydroxides at oxic–anoxic interfaces can result in periods of oxygen limitation for bacterial cells. Under laboratory conditions, all Zetaproteobacteria isolates have been shown to strictly require oxygen as an electron acceptor for growth, and anaerobic metabolism has not been observed. However, genomic analyses indicate a range of potential anaerobic pathways present in Zetaproteobacteria. Heterologous expression of proteins from Mariprofundus ferrooxydans PV-1, including pyruvate formate lyase and acetate kinase, further support a capacity for anaerobic metabolism. Here we define auxiliary anaerobic metabolism as a mechanism to provide maintenance energy to cells and suggest that it provides a survival advantage to Zetaproteobacteria in environments with fluctuating oxygen availability.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Clara Chan and Sean McAllister for helpful discussions and feedback on the manuscript. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI, Award OCE-0939564). This is C-DEBI contribution #519.