Extracellular electron transfer (EET)

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In summary, a team of researchers has discovered that a common bacterium, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, can use natural conductivity to harvest electrons from minerals deep in soil and sediment while remaining at the surface. This study not only characterizes the genetic and molecular basis for this process, but also has potential implications for future biotechnological applications, such as energy and biofuel generation. However, further research is needed to determine the practicality of using this process for such applications.
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I ran across this interesting article which seems to suggest that a single cell organism on a surface can harvest electricity from a distant source below ground. Is this a potentially important discovery?

Led by Peter Girguis, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences, and Arpita Bose, a post-doctoral fellow in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, a team of researchers showed that the commonly found bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris can use natural conductivity to pull electrons from minerals located deep in soil and sediment while remaining at the surface, where they absorb the sunlight needed to produce energy. The study is described in a February 26 paper in Nature Communications.
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Here's a link to the original study: A. Bose, E.J. Gardel, C. Vidoudez, E.A. Parra, P.R. Girguis. 2014. Electron uptake by iron-oxidizing phototrophic bacteria. Nature Communications, 5: 3391. doi:10.1038/ncomms4391.

Organisms capable of extracellular electron transfer (EET) have already been identified, so this is not the main point of the study. Rather, this study is important because the authors are able to begin characterizing the genetic and molecular basis for the EET activity of these bacteria. Knowing which genes are involved in EET and how the process occurs at a molecular level can potentially aid in developing new biotechnological applications (for example in energy or biofuel generation). Of course, we're still very far away from even knowing whether EET can be practical for such biotechnological applications.
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Related to Extracellular electron transfer (EET)

1. What is extracellular electron transfer (EET)?

Extracellular electron transfer refers to the process by which microorganisms transfer electrons from inside their cells to outside in order to carry out metabolic reactions. This can involve either the transfer of electrons to or from solid surfaces, such as minerals or electrodes.

2. How does EET occur in microorganisms?

EET can occur through a variety of mechanisms, including direct contact between the microorganism and the solid surface, secretion of soluble electron shuttles, or formation of conductive nanowires. The specific mechanism depends on the type of microorganism and the environmental conditions.

3. What is the significance of EET in biogeochemical processes?

EET plays a crucial role in biogeochemical processes, as it enables microorganisms to carry out important functions such as mineral weathering, pollutant degradation, and nutrient cycling. It also has potential applications in bioremediation, bioenergy production, and biotechnology.

4. Can EET be harnessed for sustainable energy production?

Yes, EET has been extensively studied for its potential use in sustainable energy production, particularly in microbial fuel cells. These devices use microorganisms that are capable of extracellular electron transfer to generate electricity from organic matter or other substrates.

5. Are there any challenges associated with studying EET?

Yes, there are several challenges associated with studying EET, including the complex and diverse nature of microorganisms and their interactions with solid surfaces. Additionally, the mechanisms of EET are still not fully understood and require further research to be fully elucidated. Technical challenges, such as developing reliable measurement techniques, also exist.

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