Microbial reduction of ferric iron [Fe(III)] is an important biogeochemical process in anoxic aquifers. Depending on groundwater pH, dissimilatory metal-reducing bacteria can also respire alternative electron acceptors to survive, including elemental sulfur (S(0)). To understand the interplay of Fe/S cycling under alkaline conditions, we combined thermodynamic geochemical modeling with bioreactor experiments using Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. Under these conditions, S. oneidensis can enzymatically reduce S(0) but not goethite (α-FeOOH). The HS(-) produced subsequently reduces goethite abiotically. Because of the prevalence of alkaline conditions in many aquifers, Fe(III) reduction may thus proceed via S(0)-mediated electron-shuttling pathways.
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