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Anoxygenic photoautotrophic bacteria which use light energy and electrons from Fe(II) for growth, so-called photoferrotrophs, are suggested to have been amongst the first phototrophic microorganisms on Earth and to have contributed to the deposition of sedimentary iron mineral deposits, i.e. banded iron formations. To date only two isolates of marine photoferrotrophic bacteria exist, both of which are closely related purple non-sulfur bacteria. Here we present a novel green-sulfur photoautotrophic Fe(II) oxidizer isolated from a marine coastal sediment, Chlorobium sp. strain N1, which is closely related to the freshwater green-sulfur bacterium Chlorobium luteolum DSM273 that is incapable of Fe(II) oxidation. Besides Fe(II), our isolated strain grew phototrophically with other inorganic and organic substrates such as sulfide, hydrogen, lactate or yeast extract. Highest Fe(II) oxidation rates were measured at pH 7.0-7.3, the temperature optimum was 25 degrees C. Mossbauer spectroscopy identified ferrihydrite as the main Fe(III) mineral and fluorescence and helium-ion microscopy revealed cell-mineral aggregates without obvious cell encrustation. In summary, our study showed that the new isolate is physiologically adapted to the conditions of its natural habitat but also to conditions as proposed for early Earth and is thus a suitable model organism for further studies addressing phototrophic Fe(II) oxidation on early Earth.


Laufer, Katja;  Niemeyer, Annika;  Nikeleit, Verena;  Halama, Maximilian;  Byrne, James M.;  Kappler, Andreas

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