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Mar 24, 2019

Study shows how electricity-eating microbes use electrons to fix carbon dioxide

Posted by in categories: biological, food

New research from Washington University in St. Louis explains the cellular processes that allow a sun-loving microbe to “eat” electricity—transferring electrons to fix carbon dioxide to fuel its growth.

Led by Arpita Bose, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, and Michael Guzman, a Ph.D. candidate in her laboratory, a Washington University team showed how a naturally occurring strain of Rhodopseudomonas palustris takes up electrons from conductive substances like metal oxides or rust. The work is described in a March 22 paper in the journal Nature Communications.

The study builds on Bose’s previous discovery that R. palustris TIE-1 can consume electrons from rust proxies like poised electrodes, a process called extracellular electron uptake. R. palustris is phototrophic, which means that it uses energy from light to carry out certain metabolic processes. The new research explains the cellular sinks where this microbe dumps the electrons it eats from electricity.

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