Lack of Specificity in Geobacter Periplasmic Electron Transfer

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Reduction of extracellular acceptors requires electron transfer across the periplasm. In Geobacter sulfurreducens, three separate cytoplasmic membrane cytochromes are utilized depending on redox potential, and at least five cytochrome conduits span the outer membrane. Because G. sulfurreducens produces 5 structurally similar triheme periplasmic cytochromes (PpcABCDE) that differ in expression level, midpoint potential, and heme biochemistry, many hypotheses propose distinct periplasmic carriers could be used for specific redox potentials, terminal acceptors, or growth conditions. Using a panel of marker-free single, quadruple, and quintuple mutants, little support for these models could be found. Three quadruple mutants containing only one paralog (PpcA, PpcB, and PpcD) reduced Fe(III) citrate and Fe(III) oxide at the same rate and extent, even though PpcB and PpcD were at much lower periplasmic levels than PpcA. Mutants containing only PpcC and PpcE showed defects, but these cytochromes were nearly undetectable in the periplasm. When expressed sufficiently, PpcC and PpcE supported wild-type Fe(III) reduction. PpcA and PpcE from G. metallireducens similarly restored metal respiration in G. sulfurreducens. PgcA, an unrelated extracellular triheme c-type cytochrome, also participated in periplasmic electron transfer. While triheme cytochromes were important for metal reduction, sextuple ΔppcABCDE DpgcA mutants grew near wild-type rates with normal cyclic voltammetry profiles when using anodes as electron acceptors. These results reveal broad promiscuity in the periplasmic electron transfer network of metal-reducing Geobacter and suggest that an as-yet-undiscovered periplasmic mechanism supports electron transfer to electrodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S.C. and D.R.B. were supported by the Office of Naval Research (award number N00014-18-1-2632). We thank Jeff Gralnick for helpful discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


  • Geobacter
  • cytochrome
  • electron transfer
  • iron reduction
  • periplasm


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