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Cable bacteria with electric connection to oxygen attract flocks of diverse bacteria

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Cable bacteria are centimeter-long filamentous bacteria that conduct electrons via internal wires, thus coupling sulfide oxidation in deeper, anoxic sediment with oxygen reduction in surface sediment. This activity induces geochemical changes in the sediment, and other bacterial groups appear to benefit from the electrical connection to oxygen. Here, we report that diverse bacteria swim in a tight flock around the anoxic part of oxygen-respiring cable bacteria and disperse immediately when the connection to oxygen is disrupted (by cutting the cable bacteria with a laser). Raman microscopy shows that flocking bacteria are more oxidized when closer to the cable bacteria, but physical contact seems to be rare and brief, which suggests potential transfer of electrons via unidentified soluble intermediates. Metagenomic analysis indicates that most of the flocking bacteria appear to be aerobes, including organotrophs, sulfide oxidizers, and possibly iron oxidizers, which might transfer electrons to cable bacteria for respiration. The association and close interaction with such diverse partners might explain how oxygen via cable bacteria can affect microbial communities and processes far into anoxic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1614
JournalNature Communications
Volume14
Issue1
Number of pages8
ISSN2041-1723
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023. The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Bacteria/genetics, Deltaproteobacteria, Geologic Sediments/microbiology, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxygen, Sulfides

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