The biochemical mechanisms by which microbes interact with extracellular soluble metal ions and insoluble redox-active minerals have been the focus of intense research over the last three decades. The process presents two challenges to the microorganism; firstly electrons have to be transported at the cell surface, which in Gram negative bacteria presents an additional problem of electron transfer across the ~ 6 nm of the outer membrane. Secondly the electrons must be transferred to or from the terminal electron acceptors or donors. This review covers the known mechanisms that bacteria use to transport electrons across the cell envelope to external electron donors/acceptors. In Gram negative bacteria electron transfer across the outer membrane involves the use of an outer membrane β-barrel and cytochrome. These can be in the form of a porin-cytochrome protein, such as Cyc2 of Acidothiobacillus ferrioxydans, or a multiprotein porin-cytochrome complex like MtrCAB of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. For mineral respiring organisms there is the additional challenge of transferring the electrons from the cell to mineral surface. For the strict anaerobe Geobacter sulfurreducens this requires electron transfer through conductive pili to associated cytochrome OmcS that directly reduces Fe(III)oxides, while the facultative anaerobe S. oneidensis MR-1 accomplishes mineral reduction through direct membrane contact, contact through filamentous extentions and soluble flavin shuttles, all of which require the outer membrane cytochromes MtrC and OmcA in addition to secreted flavin.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Microbial Physiology
Subtitle of host publicationAdvances in Bacterial Electron Transport Systems and Their Regulation
EditorsRobert K. Poole
Number of pages52
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-804822-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Shewanella
  • ron oxide
  • porin-cytochrome
  • nanowire
  • cytochrome
  • Mineral reducing bacteria
  • Mineral oxidising bacteria
  • Acidithiobacillus
  • Geobacter

Cite this