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  1. Buan, Nicole R. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Sideroxydans lithotrophicus ES-1 grows autotrophically either by Fe(II) oxidation or by thiosulfate oxidation, in contrast to most other isolates of neutrophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB). This provides a unique opportunity to explore the physiology of a facultative FeOB and constrain the genes specific to Fe(II) oxidation. We compared the growth of S. lithotrophicus ES-1 on Fe(II), thiosulfate, and both substrates together. While initial growth rates were similar, thiosulfate-grown cultures had higher yield with or without Fe(II) present, which may give ES-1 an advantage over obligate FeOB. To investigate the Fe(II) and S oxidation pathways, we conducted transcriptomics experiments, validated with reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). We explored the long-term gene expression response at different growth phases (over days to a week) and expression changes during a short-term switch from thiosulfate to Fe(II) (90 min). The dsr and sox sulfur oxidation genes were upregulated in thiosulfate cultures. The Fe(II) oxidase gene cyc2 was among the top expressed genes during both Fe(II) and thiosulfate oxidation, and addition of Fe(II) to thiosulfate-grown cells caused an increase in cyc2 expression. These results support the role of Cyc2 as the Fe(II) oxidase and suggest that ES-1 maintains readiness to oxidize Fe(II), even in the absence ofmore »Fe(II). We used gene expression profiles to further constrain the ES-1 Fe(II) oxidation pathway. Notably, among the most highly upregulated genes during Fe(II) oxidation were genes for alternative complex III, reverse electron transport, and carbon fixation. This implies a direct connection between Fe(II) oxidation and carbon fixation, suggesting that CO 2 is an important electron sink for Fe(II) oxidation. IMPORTANCE Neutrophilic FeOB are increasingly observed in various environments, but knowledge of their ecophysiology and Fe(II) oxidation mechanisms is still relatively limited. Sideroxydans isolates are widely observed in aquifers, wetlands, and sediments, and genome analysis suggests metabolic flexibility contributes to their success. The type strain ES-1 is unusual among neutrophilic FeOB isolates, as it can grow on either Fe(II) or a non-Fe(II) substrate, thiosulfate. Almost all our knowledge of neutrophilic Fe(II) oxidation pathways comes from genome analyses, with some work on metatranscriptomes. This study used culture-based experiments to test the genes specific to Fe(II) oxidation in a facultative FeOB and refine our model of the Fe(II) oxidation pathway. We gained insight into how facultative FeOB like ES-1 connect Fe, S, and C biogeochemical cycling in the environment and suggest a multigene indicator would improve understanding of Fe(II) oxidation activity in environments with facultative FeOB.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2023
  2. Twisted stalks are morphologically unique bacterial extracellular organo-metallic structures containing Fe(III) oxyhydroxides that are produced by microaerophilic Fe(II)-oxidizers belonging to the Betaproteobacteria and Zetaproteobacteria. Understanding the underlying genetic and physiological mechanisms of stalk formation is of great interest based on their potential as novel biogenic nanomaterials and their relevance as putative biomarkers for microbial Fe(II) oxidation on ancient Earth. Despite the recognition of these special biominerals for over 150 years, the genetic foundation for the stalk phenotype has remained unresolved. Here we present a candidate gene cluster for the biosynthesis and secretion of the stalk organic matrix that we identified with a trait-based analyses of a pan-genome comprising 16 Zetaproteobacteria isolate genomes. The “ s talk f ormation in Z etaproteobacteria” (sfz) cluster comprises six genes ( sfz1-sfz6 ), of which sfz1 and sfz2 were predicted with functions in exopolysaccharide synthesis, regulation, and export, sfz4 and sfz6 with functions in cell wall synthesis manipulation and carbohydrate hydrolysis, and sfz3 and sfz5 with unknown functions. The stalk-forming Betaproteobacteria Ferriphaselus R-1 and OYT-1, as well as dread-forming Zetaproteobacteria Mariprofundus aestuarium CP-5 and Mariprofundus ferrinatatus CP-8 contain distant sfz gene homologs, whereas stalk-less Zetaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria lack the entire gene cluster. Our pan-genomemore »analysis further revealed a significant enrichment of clusters of orthologous groups (COGs) across all Zetaproteobacteria isolate genomes that are associated with the regulation of a switch between sessile and motile growth controlled by the intracellular signaling molecule c-di-GMP. Potential interactions between stalk-former unique transcription factor genes, sfz genes, and c-di-GMP point toward a c-di-GMP regulated surface attachment function of stalks during sessile growth.« less
  3. Komeili, Arash (Ed.)
    Iron (Fe) oxidation is one of Earth’s major biogeochemical processes, key to weathering, soil formation, water quality, and corrosion. However, our understanding of microbial contribution is limited by incomplete knowledge of microbial iron oxidation mechanisms, particularly in neutrophilic iron oxidizers. The genomes of many diverse iron oxidizers encode a homolog to an outer membrane cytochrome (Cyc2) shown to oxidize iron in two acidophiles. Phylogenetic analyses show Cyc2 sequences from neutrophiles cluster together, suggesting a common function, though this function has not been verified in these organisms. Therefore, we investigated the iron oxidase function of heterologously expressed Cyc2 from a neutrophilic iron oxidizer Mariprofundus ferrooxydans PV-1. Cyc2 PV-1 is capable of oxidizing iron, and its redox potential is 208 ± 20 mV, consistent with the ability to accept electrons from Fe2+ at neutral pH. These results support the hypothesis that Cyc2 functions as an iron oxidase in neutrophilic iron-oxidizing organisms. The results of sequence analysis and modeling reveal that the entire Cyc2 family shares a unique fused cytochrome-porin structure, with a defining consensus motif in the cytochrome region. On the basis of results from structural analyses, we predict that the monoheme cytochrome Cyc2 specifically oxidizes dissolved Fe2+, in contrast to multiheme iron oxidases, whichmore »may oxidize solid Fe(II). With our results, there is now functional validation for diverse representatives of Cyc2 sequences. We present a comprehensive Cyc2 phylogenetic tree and offer a roadmap for identifying cyc2/Cyc2 homologs and interpreting their function. The occurrence of cyc2 in many genomes beyond known iron oxidizers presents the possibility that microbial iron oxidation may be a widespread metabolism. IMPORTANCE Iron is practically ubiquitous across Earth’s environments, central to both life and geochemical processes, which depend heavily on the redox state of iron. Although iron oxidation, or “rusting,” can occur abiotically at near-neutral pH, we find neutrophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) are widespread, including in aquifers, sediments, hydrothermal vents, pipes, and water treatment systems. FeOB produce highly reactive Fe(III) oxyhydroxides that bind a variety of nutrients and toxins; thus, these microbes are likely a controlling force in iron and other biogeochemical cycles. There has been mounting evidence that Cyc2 functions as an iron oxidase in neutrophiles, but definitive proof of its function has long eluded us. This work provides conclusive biochemical evidence of iron oxidation by Cyc2 from neutrophiles. Cyc2 is common to a wide variety of iron oxidizers, including acidophilic and phototrophic iron oxidizers, suggesting that this fused cytochrome-porin structure is especially well adapted for iron oxidation.« less
  4. Abstract

    In principle, iron oxidation can fuel significant primary productivity and nutrient cycling in dark environments such as the deep sea. However, we have an extremely limited understanding of the ecology of iron-based ecosystems, and thus the linkages between iron oxidation, carbon cycling, and nitrate reduction. Here we investigate iron microbial mats from hydrothermal vents at Lōʻihi Seamount, Hawaiʻi, using genome-resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to reconstruct potential microbial roles and interactions. Our results show that the aerobic iron-oxidizing Zetaproteobacteria are the primary producers, concentrated at the oxic mat surface. Their fixed carbon supports heterotrophs deeper in the mat, notably the second most abundant organism,Candidatus Ferristratumsp. (uncultivated gen. nov.) from the uncharacterized DTB120 phylum.Candidatus Ferristratumsp., described using nine high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes with similar distributions of genes, expressed nitrate reduction genesnarGHand the iron oxidation genecyc2in situ and in response to Fe(II) in a shipboard incubation, suggesting it is an anaerobic nitrate-reducing iron oxidizer.Candidatus Ferristratumsp. lacks a full denitrification pathway, relying on Zetaproteobacteria to remove intermediates like nitrite. Thus, at Lōʻihi, anaerobic iron oxidizers coexist with and are dependent on aerobic iron oxidizers. In total, our work shows how key community members work together to connect iron oxidation with carbon and nitrogen cycling,more »thus driving the biogeochemistry of exported fluids.

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  5. Liu, Shuang-Jiang (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Natural attenuation of heavy metals occurs via coupled microbial iron cycling and metal precipitation in creeks impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD). Here, we describe the isolation, characterization, and genomic sequencing of two iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) species: Thiomonas ferrovorans FB-6 and Thiomonas metallidurans FB-Cd, isolated from slightly acidic (pH 6.3), Fe-rich, AMD-impacted creek sediments. These strains precipitated amorphous iron oxides, lepidocrocite, goethite, and magnetite or maghemite and grew at a pH optimum of 5.5. While Thiomonas spp. are known as mixotrophic sulfur oxidizers and As oxidizers, the FB strains oxidized Fe, which suggests they can efficiently remove Fe and other metals via coprecipitation. Previous evidence for Thiomonas sp. Fe oxidation is largely ambiguous, possibly because of difficulty demonstrating Fe oxidation in heterotrophic/mixotrophic organisms. Therefore, we also conducted a genomic analysis to identify genetic mechanisms of Fe oxidation, other metal transformations, and additional adaptations, comparing the two FB strain genomes with 12 other Thiomonas genomes. The FB strains fall within a relatively novel group of Thiomonas strains that includes another strain (b6) with solid evidence of Fe oxidation. Most Thiomonas isolates, including the FB strains, have the putative iron oxidation gene cyc2 , but only the two FB strains possessmore »the putative Fe oxidase genes mtoAB . The two FB strain genomes contain the highest numbers of strain-specific gene clusters, greatly increasing the known Thiomonas genetic potential. Our results revealed that the FB strains are two distinct novel species of Thiomonas with the genetic potential for bioremediation of AMD via iron oxidation. IMPORTANCE As AMD moves through the environment, it impacts aquatic ecosystems, but at the same time, these ecosystems can naturally attenuate contaminated waters via acid neutralization and catalyzing metal precipitation. This is the case in the former Ronneburg uranium-mining district, where AMD impacts creek sediments. We isolated and characterized two iron-oxidizing Thiomonas species that are mildly acidophilic to neutrophilic and that have two genetic pathways for iron oxidation. These Thiomonas species are well positioned to naturally attenuate AMD as it discharges across the landscape.« less
  6. ABSTRACT Zetaproteobacteria create extensive iron (Fe) oxide mats at marine hydrothermal vents, making them an ideal model for microbial Fe oxidation at circumneutral pH. Comparison of neutrophilic Fe oxidizer isolate genomes has revealed a hypothetical Fe oxidation pathway, featuring a homolog of the Fe oxidase Cyc2 from Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans . However, Cyc2 function is not well verified in neutrophilic Fe oxidizers, particularly in Fe-oxidizing environments. Toward this, we analyzed genomes and metatranscriptomes of Zetaproteobacteria , using 53 new high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes reconstructed from Fe mats at Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Mariana Backarc, and Loihi Seamount (Hawaii) hydrothermal vents. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated conservation of Cyc2 sequences among most neutrophilic Fe oxidizers, suggesting a common function. We confirmed the widespread distribution of cyc2 and other model Fe oxidation pathway genes across all represented Zetaproteobacteria lineages. High expression of these genes was observed in diverse Zetaproteobacteria under multiple environmental conditions and in incubations. The putative Fe oxidase gene cyc2 was highly expressed in situ , often as the top expressed gene. The cyc2 gene showed increased expression in Fe(II)-amended incubations, with corresponding increases in carbon fixation and central metabolism gene expression. These results substantiate the Cyc2-based Fe oxidation pathway in neutrophiles and demonstrate its significancemore »in marine Fe-mineralizing environments. IMPORTANCE Iron oxides are important components of our soil, water supplies, and ecosystems, as they sequester nutrients, carbon, and metals. Microorganisms can form iron oxides, but it is unclear whether this is a significant mechanism in the environment. Unlike other major microbial energy metabolisms, there is no marker gene for iron oxidation, hindering our ability to track these microbes. Here, we investigate a promising possible iron oxidation gene, cyc2 , in iron-rich hydrothermal vents, where iron-oxidizing microbes dominate. We pieced together diverse Zetaproteobacteria genomes, compared these genomes, and analyzed expression of cyc2 and other hypothetical iron oxidation genes. We show that cyc2 is widespread among iron oxidizers and is highly expressed and potentially regulated, making it a good marker for the capacity for iron oxidation and potentially a marker for activity. These findings will help us understand and potentially quantify the impacts of neutrophilic iron oxidizers in a wide variety of marine and terrestrial environments.« less
  7. ABSTRACT Sideroxydans sp. strain CL21 is an aerobic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacterium isolated from peat sediment from the Fe-rich, moderately acidic Schlöppnerbrunnen fen (northern Bavaria, Germany). Here, we report the draft genome sequence of strain CL21, highlighting genes involved in Fe(II), sulfur, and H 2 oxidation.