Size dependent microbial oxidation and reduction of magnetite nano-and micro-particles

James M. Byrne, Gerrit Van Der Laan, Adriana I. Figueroa, Odeta Qafoku, Chongmin Wang, Carolyn I. Pearce, Michael Jackson, Joshua Feinberg, Kevin M. Rosso, Andreas Kappler

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37 Scopus citations


The ability for magnetite to act as a recyclable electron donor and acceptor for Fe-metabolizing bacteria has recently been shown. However, it remains poorly understood whether microbe-mineral interfacial electron transfer processes are limited by the redox capacity of the magnetite surface or that of whole particles. Here we examine this issue for the phototrophic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria Rhodopseudomonas palustris TIE-1 and the Fe(III)-reducing bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens, comparing magnetite nanoparticles (d ‰ 12 nm) against microparticles (d ‰ 100-200 nm). By integrating surface-sensitive and bulk-sensitive measurement techniques we observed a particle surface that was enriched in Fe(II) with respect to a more oxidized core. This enables microbial Fe(II) oxidation to occur relatively easily at the surface of the mineral suggesting that the electron transfer is dependent upon particle size. However, microbial Fe(III) reduction proceeds via conduction of electrons into the particle interior, i.e. it can be considered as more of a bulk electron transfer process that is independent of particle size. The finding has potential implications on the ability of magnetite to be used for long range electron transport in soils and sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30969
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Aug 5 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.M.B. is supported by a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Individual Research Grant (KA 1736/31-1), and carried out some of the magnetic work through a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute for Rock Magnetism, which is supported by the Instruments and Facilities Program, US National Science Foundation. K.M.R. acknowledges support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division, through its Geosciences program at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). A portion of the research was performed using EMSL, a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research and located at PNNL.


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