Broad application of microbial fuel cells will require substantial increases in current density. A better understanding of the microbiology of these systems may help. Recent studies have greatly expanded the range of microorganisms known to function either as electrode-reducing microorganisms at the anode or as electrode-oxidizing microorganisms at the cathode. Microorganisms that can completely oxidize organic compounds with an electrode serving as the sole electron acceptor are expected to be the primary contributors to power production. Several mechanisms for electron transfer to anodes have been proposed including: direct electron transfer via outer-surface c-type cytochromes, long-range electron transfer via microbial nanowires, electron flow through a conductive biofilm matrix containing cytochromes, and soluble electron shuttles. Which mechanisms are most important depend on the microorganisms and the thickness of the anode biofilm. Emerging systems biology approaches to the study, design, and evolution of microorganisms interacting with electrodes are expected to contribute to improved microbial fuel cells.