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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. Microbes, such as bacteria, can be described, at one level, as small, self-sustaining chemical factories. Based on the species, strain, and even the environment, bacteria can be useful, neutral or pathogenic to human life, so it is increasingly important that we be able to characterize them at the molecular level with chemical specificity and spatial and temporal resolution in order to understand their behavior. Bacterial metabolism involves a large number of internal and external electron transfer processes, so it is logical that electrochemical techniques have been employed to investigate these bacterial metabolites. In this mini-review, we focus on electrochemical and spectroelectrochemical methods that have been developed and used specifically to chemically characterize bacteria and their behavior. First, we discuss the latest mechanistic insights and current understanding of microbial electron transfer, including both direct and mediated electron transfer. Second, we summarize progress on approaches to spatiotemporal characterization of secreted factors, including both metabolites and signaling molecules, which can be used to discern how natural or external factors can alter metabolic states of bacterial cells and change either their individual or collective behavior. Finally, we address in situ methods of single-cell characterization, which can uncover how heterogeneity in cell behavior is reflected in the behavior and properties of collections of bacteria, e.g. bacterial communities. Recent advances in (spectro)electrochemical characterization of bacteria have yielded important new insights both at the ensemble and the single-entity levels, which are furthering our understanding of bacterial behavior. These insights, in turn, promise to benefit applications ranging from biosensors to the use of bacteria in bacteria-based bioenergy generation and storage. 
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    The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa ( P. aeruginosa ) produces several redox-active phenazine metabolites, including pyocyanin (PYO) and phenazine-1-carboxamide (PCN), which are electron carrier molecules that also aid in virulence. In particular, PYO is an exclusive metabolite produced by P. aeruginosa , which acts as a virulence factor in hospital-acquired infections and is therefore a good biomarker for identifying early stage colonization by this pathogen. Here, we describe the use of nanopore electrode arrays (NEAs) exhibiting metal–insulator–metal ring electrode architectures for enhanced detection of these phenazine metabolites. The size of the nanopores allows phenazine metabolites to freely diffuse into the interior and access the working electrodes, while the bacteria are excluded. Consequently, highly efficient redox cycling reactions in the NEAs can be accessed by free diffusion unhindered by the presence of bacteria. This strategy yields low limits of detection, i.e. 10.5 and 20.7 nM for PYO and PCN, respectively, values far below single molecule pore occupancy, e.g. at 10.5 nM 〈 n pore 〉 ∼ 0.082 per nanopore – a limit which reflects the extraordinary signal amplification in the NEAs. Furthermore, experiments that compared results from minimal medium and rich medium show that P. aeruginosa produces the same types of phenazine metabolites even though growth rates and phenazine production patterns differ in these two media. The NEA measurement strategy developed here should be useful as a diagnostic for pathogens generally and for understanding metabolism in clinically important microbial communities. 
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