Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 is a facultative anaerobe that thrives in redox-stratified environments due to its ability to utilize a wide array of terminal electron acceptors. Conversely, the electron donors utilized by S. oneidensis are more limited and include products of primary fermentation such as lactate, pyruvate, formate, and hydrogen. Lactate, pyruvate, and hydrogen metabolisms in S. oneidensis have been described previously, but little is known about the role of formate oxidation in the ecophysiology of these bacteria. Formate is produced by S. oneidensis through pyruvate formate lyase during anaerobic growth on carbon sources that enter metabolism at or above the level of pyruvate, and the genome contains three gene clusters predicted to encode three complete formate dehydrogenase complexes. To determine the contribution of each complex to formate metabolism, strains lacking one, two, or all three annotated formate dehydrogenase gene clusters were generated and examined for growth rates and yields on a variety of carbon sources. Here, we report that formate oxidation contributes to both the growth rate and yield of S. oneidensis through the generation of proton motive force. Exogenous formate also greatly accelerated growth on N-acetylglucosamine, a carbon source normally utilized very slowly by S. oneidensis under anaerobic conditions. Surprisingly, deletion of all three formate dehydrogenase gene clusters enabled growth of S. oneidensis using pyruvate in the absence of a terminal electron acceptor, a mode of growth never before observed in these bacteria. Our results demonstrate that formate oxidation is a fundamental strategy under anaerobic conditions for energy conservation in S. oneidensis.
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