Long-distance electron transport occurs globally in marine sediments

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  • Laurine D.W. Burdorf, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  • ,
  • Anton Tramper, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  • ,
  • Dorina Seitaj, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • ,
  • Lorenz Meire
  • Silvia Hidalgo-Martinez, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  • ,
  • Eva Maria Zetsche, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Göteborgs Universitet
  • ,
  • Henricus T.S. Boschker, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  • ,
  • Filip J.R. Meysman

Recently, long filamentous bacteria have been reported conducting electrons over centimetre distances in marine sediments. These so-called cable bacteria perform an electrogenic form of sulfur oxidation, whereby long-distance electron transport links sulfide oxidation in deeper sediment horizons to oxygen reduction in the upper millimetres of the sediment. Electrogenic sulfur oxidation exerts a strong impact on the local sediment biogeochemistry, but it is currently unknown how prevalent the process is within the seafloor. Here we provide a state-of-The-Art assessment of its global distribution by combining new field observations with previous reports from the literature. This synthesis demonstrates that electrogenic sulfur oxidation, and hence microbial long-distance electron transport, is a widespread phenomenon in the present-day seafloor. The process is found in coastal sediments within different climate zones (off the Netherlands, Greenland, the USA, Australia) and thrives on a range of different coastal habitats (estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves, coastal hypoxic basins, intertidal flats). The combination of a widespread occurrence and a strong local geochemical imprint suggests that electrogenic sulfur oxidation could be an important, and hitherto overlooked, component of the marine cycle of carbon, sulfur and other elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-701
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2017

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