Direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) has biogeochemical significance, and practical applications that rely on DIET or DIET-based aspects of microbial physiology are growing. Mechanisms for DIET have primarily been studied in defined cocultures in which Geobacter species are one of the DIET partners. Electrically conductive pili (e-pili) can be an important electrical conduit for DIET. However, there may be instances in which electrical contacts are made between electron transport proteins associated with the outer membranes of the partners. Alternatively, DIET partners can plug into conductive carbon materials, such as granular activated carbon, carbon cloth, and biochar, for long-range electron exchange without the need for e-pili. Magnetite promotes DIET, possibly by acting as a substitute for outer-surface c-type cytochromes. DIET is the primary mode of interspecies electron exchange in some anaerobic digesters converting wastes to methane. Promoting DIET with conductive materials shows promise for stabilizing and accelerating methane production in digesters, permitting higher organic loading rates. Various lines of evidence suggest that DIET is important in terrestrial wetlands, which are an important source of atmospheric methane. DIET may also have a role in anaerobic methane oxidation coupled to sulfate reduction, an important control on methane releases. The finding that DIET can serve as the source of electrons for anaerobic photosynthesis further broadens its potential environmental significance. Microorganisms capable of DIET are good catalysts for several bioelectrochemical technologies and e-pili are a promising renewable source of electronic materials. The study of DIET is in its early stages, and additional investigation is required to better understand the diversity of microorganisms that are capable of DIET, the importance of DIET to carbon and electron flow in anaerobic environments, and the biochemistry and physiology of DIET.
Annual Review of Microbiology – Annual Reviews
Published: Sep 8, 2017
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