Humic substance-mediated Fe(III) reduction by a fermenting Bacillus strain from the alkaline gut of a humus-feeding scarab beetle larva

Sven N. Hobbie, Xiangzhen Li, Mirko Basen, Ulrich Stingl, Andreas Brune*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Humus-feeding macroinvertebrates play an important role in the transformation of soil organic matter. Their diet contains significant amounts of redox-active components such as iron minerals and humic substances. In soil-feeding termites, acid-soluble Fe(III) and humic acids are almost completely reduced during gut passage. Here, we show that the reduction of Fe(III) and humic acids takes place also in the alkaline guts of scarab beetle larvae. Sterilized gut homogenates of Pachnoda ephippiata no longer converted Fe(III) to Fe(II), indicating an essential role of the gut microbiota in the process. From Fe(III)-reducing enrichment cultures inoculated with highly diluted gut homogenates, we isolated several facultatively anaerobic, alkali-tolerant bacteria that were closely related to metal-reducing isolates in the Bacillus thioparans group. Strain PeC11 showed a remarkable capacity for dissimilatory Fe(III) reduction, both at pH 7 and 10. Rates were strongly stimulated by the addition of the redox mediator 2,6-antraquinone disulfonate and by redox-active components in the fulvic-acid fraction of humus. Although the contribution of strain PeC11 to intestinal Fe(III) reduction in P. ephippiata remains to be further elucidated, our results corroborate the hypothesis that the lack of oxygen and the solubilization of humic substances in the extremely alkaline guts of humivorous soil fauna provide favorable conditions for the efficient reduction of Fe(III) and humic substances by a primarily fermentative microbiota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-232
Number of pages7
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

Keywords

  • Electron acceptor
  • Electron shuttling
  • Gut microbiota
  • Humic substances
  • Insects
  • Iron reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

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