Mineral formation induced by cable bacteria performing long-distance electron transport in marine sediments

Nicole M.J. Geerlings*, Eva Maria Zetsche, Silvia Hidalgo-Martinez, Jack J. Middelburg, Filip J.R. Meysman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


Cable bacteria are multicellular, filamentous microorganisms that are capable of transporting electrons over centimeter-scale distances. Although recently discovered, these bacteria appear to be widely present in the seafloor, and when active they exert a strong imprint on the local geochemistry. In particular, their electrogenic metabolism induces unusually strong pH excursions in aquatic sediments, which induces considerable mineral dissolution, and subsequent mineral reprecipitation. However, at present, it is unknown whether and how cable bacteria play an active or direct role in the mineral reprecipitation process. To this end we present an explorative study of the formation of sedimentary minerals in and near filamentous cable bacteria using a combined approach of electron microscopy and spectroscopic techniques. Our observations reveal the formation of polyphosphate granules within the cells and two different types of biomineral formation directly associated with multicellular filaments of these cable bacteria: (i) the attachment and incorporation of clay particles in a coating surrounding the bacteria and (ii) encrustation of the cell envelope by iron minerals. These findings suggest a complex interaction between cable bacteria and the surrounding sediment matrix, and a substantial imprint of the electrogenic metabolism on mineral diagenesis and sedimentary biogeochemical cycling. In particular, the encrustation process leaves many open questions for further research. For example, we hypothesize that the complete encrustation of filaments might create a diffusion barrier and negatively impact the metabolism of the cable bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-829
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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