Anaerobic reduction of manganese oxides and its effect on the carbon and nitrogen cycles
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The biogenic reduction of Mn(IV) oxides is one of the most favorable anaerobic electron transfer processes in aquatic systems and likely plays an important role in the redox cycle of both carbon and nitrogen in anaerobic environments; yet, the different pathways involved in the microbial transformation of Mn(IV) oxides remain unclear. The coupling between the reduction of Mn(IV) to Mn(II) and the oxidation of organic carbon to CO₂ is largely catalyzed by microorganisms in various environments such as redox stratified water columns and sediments. The recent discovery that soluble Mn(III) exists in natural systems and is formed during biological oxidation of Mn(II) implies the possibility that Mn(III) is formed as an intermediate during the microbial reduction of Mn(IV). In this dissertation, mutagenesis studies and kinetic analysis were combined to study the mechanism of microbial reduction of Mn(IV) by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, one of the most studied metal-respiring prokaryotes. We show for the first time that the microbial reduction of Mn(IV) proceeds step-wise via two successive one-electron transfer reactions with soluble Mn(III) as intermediate produced in solution. The point mutant strain Mn3, generated via random chemical mutagenesis, presents a unique phenotype that reduces solid Mn(IV) to Mn(III) but not to Mn(II), suggesting that these two reduction steps proceed via different electron transport pathways. Mutagenesis studies on various in-frame deletion mutant strains demonstrate that the reduction of both solid Mn(IV) and soluble Mn(III) occurs at the outer membrane of the cell and Mn(IV) respiration involves only one of the two potential terminal reductases (c-type cytochrome MtrC and OmcA) involved in Fe(III) respiration. Interestingly, only the second electron transfer step is coupled to the respiration of organic carbon, which opposes the long-standing paradigm that microbial reduction of Mn(IV) proceeds via the single transfer of two electrons coupled to the mineralization of carbon substrates. The coupling between anaerobic nitrification and Mn reduction has been demonstrated to be thermodynamically favorable. However, the existence of this process in natural system is still in debate. In this dissertation, characterization of coastal marine sediments was combined with laboratory incubations of the same sediments to investigate the effect of Mn oxides on the redox cycle of nitrogen. Our slurry incubations demonstrate that anaerobic nitrification is catalyzed by Mn oxides. In addition, mass balance calculations on NH₄⁺ link the consumption of NH₄⁺ to anaerobic ammonium oxidation in the presence of Mn oxides and confirm the occurrence of Mn(IV)-catalyzed anaerobic nitrification. The activity of anaerobic nitrification is greatly affected by the initial ratio of Mn(IV) to NH₄⁺, the reactivity of Mn oxides, and the reducing potential of the system. Overall, Mn(IV)-catalyzed anaerobic nitrification may be an important source of nitrite/nitrate in anaerobic marine sediments and provide an alternative pathway for subsequent nitrogen losses in the marine nitrogen cycle.