Some phototrophic microbes can pull electrons in from an electrode source and use them as fuel. They do this by using a unique processing step to regulate the production of an electron transfer protein used during this process. This process is involves getting electrons across the barrier of the bacteria, which is difficult since the outer layer is non-conducive and impermeable to iron and/or electrodes. A strain of Rhodopseudomonas palustris
TIE-1 builds a channel by processing a protein called deca-heme cytochrome c, to help electrons pass through the membrane. This process is called extracellular electron uptake, or EEU, and it is done by bacteria when nutrients are low. Researchers now understand this process better and are going to use these biological markers to identify other microbes in the wild that are able to use electrons as a fuel source. Doing so will help to further understand why this process is important in metabolic evolution and microbial ecology.
I find it very fascinating how microbes are able to develop unique ways to survive harsh conditions. Microbes are so adaptable when it comes to change in the environment and seeing a process like this is very cool. I've never heard of a bacteria using electrons as fuel before and didn't even think of it as a possibility, so learning that this is something some can do is incredible.
It reminds me of the change in electron energy in phototsynthesis in chloroplasts. And chloroplasts in eukaryotic cells were evolutionized from prokaryotes. I wonder what allows prokaryotes to adapt and thrive off of so many organic resources.ReplyDelete