A dissimilatory Fe(III)- and Mn(IV)-reducing microorganism was isolated from freshwater sediments of the Potomac River, Maryland. The isolate, designated GS-15, grew in defined anaerobic medium with acetate as the sole electron donor and Fe(III), Mn(IV), or nitrate as the sole electron acceptor. GS-15 oxidized acetate to carbon dioxide with the concomitant reduction of amorphic Fe(III) oxide to magnetite (Fe(3)O(4)). When Fe(III) citrate replaced amorphic Fe(III) oxide as the electron acceptor, GS-15 grew faster and reduced all of the added Fe(III) to Fe(II). GS-15 reduced a natural amorphic Fe(III) oxide but did not significantly reduce highly crystalline Fe(III) forms. Fe(III) was reduced optimally at pH 6.7 to 7 and at 30 to 35 degrees C. Ethanol, butyrate, and propionate could also serve as electron donors for Fe(III) reduction. A variety of other organic compounds and hydrogen could not. MnO(2) was completely reduced to Mn(II), which precipitated as rhodochrosite (MnCO(3)). Nitrate was reduced to ammonia. Oxygen could not serve as an electron acceptor, and it inhibited growth with the other electron acceptors. This is the first demonstration that microorganisms can completely oxidize organic compounds with Fe(III) or Mn(IV) as the sole electron acceptor and that oxidation of organic matter coupled to dissimilatory Fe(III) or Mn(IV) reduction can yield energy for microbial growth. GS-15 provides a model for how enzymatically catalyzed reactions can be quantitatively significant mechanisms for the reduction of iron and manganese in anaerobic environments.