Direct microbial electron uptake as a mechanism for stainless steel corrosion in aerobic environments

Enze Zhou, Feng Li, Dawei Zhang, Dake Xu*, Zhong Li, Ru Jia, Hao Song, Tingyue Gu, Axel M. Homborg, Johannes M.C. Mol, More Authors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 is an attractive model microbe for elucidating the biofilm-metal interactions that contribute to the billions of dollars in corrosion damage to industrial applications each year. Multiple mechanisms for S. oneidensis-enhanced corrosion have been proposed, but none of these mechanisms have previously been rigorously investigated with methods that rule out alternative routes for electron transfer. We found that S. oneidensis grown under aerobic conditions formed thick biofilms (∼50 µm) on stainless steel coupons, accelerating corrosion over sterile controls. H2 and flavins were ruled out as intermediary electron carriers because stainless steel did not reduce riboflavin and previous studies have demonstrated stainless does not generate H2. Strain ∆mtrCBA, in which the genes for the most abundant porin-cytochrome conduit in S. oneidensis were deleted, corroded stainless steel substantially less than wild-type in aerobic cultures. Wild-type biofilms readily reduced nitrate with stainless steel as the sole electron donor under anaerobic conditions, but strain ∆mtrCBA did not. These results demonstrate that S. oneidensis can directly consume electrons from iron-containing metals and illustrate how direct metal-to-microbe electron transfer can be an important route for corrosion, even in aerobic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118553
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Direct electron transfer
  • Microbiologically influenced corrosion
  • Porin-cytochrome conduit
  • Shewanella oneidensis
  • Stainless steel


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