Extracellular electron transfer (EET) (1 Viewer)

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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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