Energy Eating Bacteria

There has been a discovery that certain bacteria are able to take up energy in terms of electrons for photosynthesis purposes. A form of photosynthesis where bacteria utilize varieties of ferrous iron as the source of electrons to fix carbon dioxide is called photoferrotrophy. A study performed by Washington University in St. Louis at Arpita Bose’s laboratory, unveils the pathway in which these bacteria accomplish this task which previously has been poorly misunderstood. They showed how bacteria are able to pull electrons straight from an electrode source. The research team used Rhodopseudomonas palustris as their model organism to show how TIE-1 protein provides access through the bacteria’s cell wall, essentially building a bridge for the electrons to cross over through the nonconductive barrier that’s insoluble to iron minerals and electrodes. There is a crucial protein called deca-heme cytochome that assists TIE-1 in this energy uptake process by undergoing proteolysis.

Dinesh Gupta, a Bose laboratory PhD candidate and the first author on this research study states, "This study will aid in designing a bacterial platform where bacteria can feed on electricity and carbon dioxide to produce value-added compounds such as biofuels." With this discovery, Bose hopes to find more bacteria with electron uptake capabilities to help understand how its functionality portrays importance in bacterial metabolism as it keeps evolving.