Electrochemical and spectroelectrochemical characterization of bacteria and bacterial systems
Microbes, such as bacteria, can be described, at one level, as small, self-sustaining chemical factories. Based on the species, strain, and even the environment, bacteria can be useful, neutral or pathogenic to human life, so it is increasingly important that we be able to characterize them at the molecular level with chemical specificity and spatial and temporal resolution in order to understand their behavior. Bacterial metabolism involves a large number of internal and external electron transfer processes, so it is logical that electrochemical techniques have been employed to investigate these bacterial metabolites. In this mini-review, we focus on electrochemical and spectroelectrochemical methods that have been developed and used specifically to chemically characterize bacteria and their behavior. First, we discuss the latest mechanistic insights and current understanding of microbial electron transfer, including both direct and mediated electron transfer. Second, we summarize progress on approaches to spatiotemporal characterization of secreted factors, including both metabolites and signaling molecules, which can be used to discern how natural or external factors can alter metabolic states of bacterial cells and change either their individual or collective behavior. Finally, we address in situ methods of single-cell characterization, which can uncover how heterogeneity in cell behavior is reflected in the behavior and properties of collections of bacteria, e.g. bacterial communities. Recent advances in (spectro)electrochemical characterization of bacteria have yielded important new insights both at the ensemble and the single-entity levels, which are furthering our understanding of bacterial behavior. These insights, in turn, promise to benefit applications ranging from biosensors to the use of bacteria in bacteria-based bioenergy generation and storage.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Analyst Review Articles 2021