Dissimilatory iron(III) reduction by rhodobacter capsulatus

Paul S. Dobbin, Louise H. Warren, Nicola J. Cook, Alastair G. McEwan, Anne K. Powell, David J. Richardson

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The photosynthetic proteobacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus was shown to be capable of dissimilatory Fe(III) reduction. Activity was anaerobic phototrophic and microaerobic growth with malate as the carbon expressed during source, but not during equivalent aerobic growth. A variety of Fe(III) complexes were demonstrated to act as substrates for intact cells and membrane fractions of strain N22DNAR+ using a ferrozine assay for Fe(II) formation. Rates of reduction appeared to be influenced by the reduction potentials of the Fe(III) complexes. However, Fe(III) complexed by citrate, which is readily reduced by Shewanella putrefaciens, was a poor substrate for dissimilation by R. capsulatus. The Fe(III)-reducing activity of R. capsulatus was located solely in the membrane fraction. The reduction of Fe(III) complexes by intact cells was inhibited by 2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline-N-oxide (HQNO), suggesting the involvement of ubiquinol: cytochrome c oxidoreductases in the electron transport chain. Lack of sensitivity to myxothiazol plus data from mutant strains implies that the cytochrome be, complex and cytochrome c2 are not obligatory for dissimilation of Fe(III)(maltol)3. Alternative pathways of electron transfer to Fe(III) must hence operate in R. capsulatus. Using strain N22DNAR+, the reduction rate of Fe(III) complexed by nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) was elevated compared to that of Fe(III)(maltol)3, and moreover was sensitive to myxothiazol. However, these differences were not observed in the absence of the electron donor malate. The governing factor for the reduction rate of Fe(III)(maltol)3 thus appears to be the limited Fe(III)-reducing activity, whilst the reduction rate of Fe(III) complexed by NTA is controlled by the flux of electrons through the respiratory chain. The use of mutant strains confirmed that the role of the cytochrome bc1, complex in Fe(III) reduction becomes apparent only with the superior substrate. The energy-conserving nature of Fe(III) reduction by R. capsulatus was demonstrated by electrochromic measurements, with the endogenous carotenoid pigments being employed as indicators of membrane potential generation in intact cells. Using Fe(III)EDTA as electron acceptor, periods of membrane potential generation were directly proportional to the quantity of complex added, and were extended in the presence of HQNO. Fe(III)-dependent carotenoid bandshifts were abolished by addition of the protonophoric uncoupler carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxy-phenylhydrazone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-774
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


  • Carotenoid bandshift
  • Dissimilatory Fe(III) reduction
  • Iron chelators
  • Membrane-bound Fe(III) reductase activity
  • Rhodobacter capsulatus

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