Anaerobic dissimilatory ferric iron-reducing and ferrous iron-oxidizing bacteria gain energy through reduction or oxidation of iron minerals and presumably play an important role in catalyzing iron transformations in anoxic environments. Numerous ferric iron-reducing bacteria have been isolated from a great diversity of anoxic environments, including sediments, soils, deep terrestrial subsurfaces, and hot springs. In contrast, only few ferrous iron-oxidizing bacteria are known so far. At neutral pH, iron minerals are barely soluble, and the mechanisms of electron transfer to or from iron minerals are still only poorly understood. In natural habitats, humic substances may act as electron carriers for ferric iron-reducing bacteria. Also fermenting bacteria were shown to channel electrons to ferric iron via humic acids. Whether quinones or cytochromes released from cells act as electron transfer components in ferric iron reduction is still a matter of debate. Anaerobic ferrous iron-oxidizing phototrophic bacteria, on the other hand, appear to excrete complexing agents to prevent precipitation of ferric iron oxides at their cell surfaces. The present review evaluates recent findings on the physiology of ferric iron-reducing and ferrous iron-oxidizing bacteria with respect to their relevance to microbial iron transformations in nature. © 2001 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.
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