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Issue 6, 2013
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Metabolic spatial variability in electrode-respiring Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms

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In this study, we quantified electron transfer rates, depth profiles of electron donor, and biofilm structure of Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms using an electrochemical-nuclear magnetic resonance microimaging biofilm reactor. Our goal was to determine whether electron donor limitations existed in electron transfer processes of electrode-respiring G. sulfurreducens biofilms. Cells near the top of the biofilms consumed acetate and were metabolically active; however, acetate concentration decreased to below detection within the top 100 microns of the biofilms. Additionally, porosity in the biofilms fell below 10% near the electrode surface, exacerbating exclusion of acetate from the lower regions. The dense biofilm matrix in the acetate-depleted zone acted as an electrical conduit passing electrons generated at the top of the biofilm to the electrode. To verify the distribution of cell metabolic activity, we used uranium as a redox-active probe for localizing electron transfer activity and X-ray absorption spectroscopy to determine the uranium oxidation state. Cells near the top reduced UVI more actively than the cells near the base. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy images showed intact, healthy cells near the top and plasmolyzed cells near the base. Contrary to models proposed in the literature, which hypothesize that cells nearest the electrode surface are the most metabolically active because of a lower electron transfer resistance, our results suggest that electrical resistance through the biofilm does not restrict long-range electron transfer. Cells far from the electrode can respire across metabolically inactive cells, taking advantage of their extracellular infrastructure produced during the initial biofilm formation.

Graphical abstract: Metabolic spatial variability in electrode-respiring Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms

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Supplementary files

Article information

20 Jan 2013
08 Apr 2013
First published
08 Apr 2013

Energy Environ. Sci., 2013,6, 1827-1836
Article type

Metabolic spatial variability in electrode-respiring Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms

R. S. Renslow, J. T. Babauta, A. C. Dohnalkova, M. I. Boyanov, K. M. Kemner, P. D. Majors, J. K. Fredrickson and H. Beyenal, Energy Environ. Sci., 2013, 6, 1827
DOI: 10.1039/C3EE40203G

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