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Wilmoth, Moran & Thompson, 2018


Transient O2 pulses direct Fe crystallinity and Fe(III)-reducer gene expression within a soil microbiome

Jared Lee Wilmoth, Mary Ann Moran, Aaron Thompson (2018)



Many environments contain redox transition zones, where transient oxygenation events can modulate anaerobic reactions that influence the cycling of iron (Fe) and carbon (C) on a global scale. In predominantly anoxic soils, this biogeochemical cycling depends on Fe mineral composition and the activity of mixed Fe(III)-reducer populations that may be altered by periodic pulses of molecular oxygen (O2).


We repeatedly exposed anoxic (4% H2:96% N2) suspensions of soil from the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory to 1.05 × 102, 1.05 × 103, and 1.05 × 104 mmol O2 kg−1 soil h−1 during pulsed oxygenation treatments. Metatranscriptomic analysis and 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy were used to investigate changes in Fe(III)-reducer gene expression and Fe(III) crystallinity, respectively.


Slow oxygenation resulted in soil Fe-(oxyhydr)oxides of higher crystallinity (38.1 ± 1.1% of total Fe) compared to fast oxygenation (30.6 ± 1.5%, P < 0.001). Transcripts binning to the genomes of Fe(III)-reducers Anaeromyxobacter, Geobacter, and Pelosinus indicated significant differences in extracellular electron transport (e.g., multiheme cytochrome c, multicopper oxidase, and type-IV pilin gene expression), adhesion/contact (e.g., S-layer, adhesin, and flagellin gene expression), and selective microbial competition (e.g., bacteriocin gene expression) between the slow and fast oxygenation treatments during microbial Fe(III) reduction. These data also suggest that diverse Fe(III)-reducer functions, including cytochrome-dependent extracellular electron transport, are associated with type-III fibronectin domains. Additionally, the metatranscriptomic data indicate that Methanobacterium was significantly more active in the reduction of CO2 to CH4 and in the expression of class(III) signal peptide/type-IV pilin genes following repeated fast oxygenation compared to slow oxygenation.


This study demonstrates that specific Fe(III)-reduction mechanisms in mixed Fe(III)-reducer populations are uniquely sensitive to the rate of O2 influx, likely mediated by shifts in soil Fe(III)-(oxyhydr)oxide crystallinity. Overall, we provide evidence that transient oxygenation events play an important role in directing anaerobic pathways within soil microbiomes, which is expected to alter Fe and C cycling in redox-dynamic environments.


Jared Lee Wilmoth, Mary Ann Moran, Aaron Thompson (2018): Transient O2 pulses direct Fe crystallinity and Fe(III)-reducer gene expression within a soil microbiome. Microbiome. DOI: 10.1186/s40168-018-0574-5

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.

Associated Data

Bisley - Soil Microbes, Soil Biogeochemistry - Iron redox, Soil Microbiome (2012-2017)
1 components    Bisley    Biogeochemistry, Biology / Ecology    Wilmoth, Jared Lee ; Moran, Mary Ann; Thompson, Aaron