Gauger, T; Byrne, JM; Konhauser, KO; Obst, M; Crowe, S; Kappler, A: Influence of organics and silica on Fe(II) oxidation rates and cell–mineral aggregate formation by the green-sulfur Fe(II)-oxidizing bacterium Chlorobium ferrooxidans KoFox – Implications for Fe(II) oxidation in ancient oceans, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 443, 81-89 (2016), doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2016.03.022 [Link]

Most studies on microbial phototrophic Fe(II) oxidation (photoferrotrophy) have focused on purple bacteria, but recent evidence points to the importance of green-sulfur bacteria (GSB). Their recovery from modern ferruginous environments suggests that these photoferrotrophs can offer insights into how their ancient counterparts grew in Archean oceans at the time of banded iron formation (BIF) deposition. It is unknown, however, how Fe(II) oxidation rates, cell–mineral aggregate formation, and Fe-mineralogy vary under environmental conditions reminiscent of the geological past. To address this, we studied the Fe(II)-oxidizer Chlorobium ferrooxidans KoFox, a GSB living in co-culture with the heterotrophic Geospirillum strain KoFum. We investigated the mineralogy of Fe(III) metabolic products at low/high light intensity, and in the presence of dissolved silica and/or fumarate. Silica and fumarate influenced the crystallinity and particle size of the produced Fe(III) minerals. The presence of silica also enhanced Fe(II) oxidation rates, especially at high light intensities, potentially by lowering Fe(II)-toxicity to the cells. Electron microscopic imaging showed no encrustation of either KoFox or KoFum cells with Fe(III)-minerals, though weak associations were observed suggesting co-sedimentation of Fe(III) with at least some biomass via these aggregates, which could support diagenetic Fe(III)-reduction. Given that GSB are presumably one of the most ancient photosynthetic organisms, and pre-date cyanobacteria, our findings, on the one hand, strengthen arguments for photoferrotrophic activity as a likely mechanism for BIF deposition on a predominantly anoxic early Earth, but, on the other hand, also suggest that preservation of remnants of Fe(II)-oxidizing GSB as microfossils in the rock record is unlikely.

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