At least five gene clusters in the Geobacter sulfurreducens genome encode putative “electron conduits” implicated in electron transfer across the outer membrane, each containing a periplasmic multiheme c-type cytochrome, integral outer membrane anchor, and outer membrane redox lipoprotein(s). Markerless single-gene-cluster deletions and all possible multiple-deletion combinations were constructed and grown with soluble Fe(III) citrate, Fe(III) and Mn(IV) oxides, and graphite electrodes poised at 0.24 V and 0.1 V versus the standard hydrogen electrode (SHE). Different gene clusters were necessary for reduction of each electron acceptor. During metal oxide reduction, deletion of the previously described omcBC cluster caused defects, but deletion of additional components in an ΔomcBC background, such as extEFG, were needed to produce defects greater than 50% compared to findings with the wild type. Deletion of all five gene clusters abolished all metal reduction. During electrode reduction, only the ΔextABCD mutant had a severe growth defect at both redox potentials, while this mutation did not affect Fe(III) oxide, Mn(IV) oxide, or Fe(III) citrate reduction. Some mutants containing only one cluster were able to reduce particular terminal electron acceptors better than the wild type, suggesting routes for improvement by targeting specific electron transfer pathways. Transcriptomic comparisons between fumarate and electrode-based growth conditions showed all of these ext clusters to be constitutive, and transcriptional analysis of the triple-deletion strain containing only extABCD detected no significant changes in expression of genes encoding known redox proteins or pilus components. These genetic experiments reveal new outer membrane conduit complexes necessary for growth of G. sulfurreducens, depending on the available extracellular electron acceptor. IMPORTANCE Gram-negative metal-reducing bacteria utilize electron conduits, chains of redox proteins spanning the outer membrane, to transfer electrons to the extracellular surface. Only one pathway for electron transfer across the outer membrane of Geobacter sulfurreducens has been linked to Fe(III) reduction. However, G. sulfurreducens is able to respire a wide array of extracellular substrates. Here we present the first combinatorial genetic analysis of five different electron conduits via creation of new markerless deletion strains and complementation vectors. Multiple conduit gene clusters appear to have overlapping roles, including two that have never been linked to metal reduction. Another recently described cluster (ExtABCD) was the only electron conduit essential during electrode reduction, a substrate of special importance to biotechnological applications of this organism.
- C-type cytochrome conduit
- Cytochrome electron conduit
- Extracellular electron transfer
- Multiheme c-type cytochomes
- Multiheme cytochrome