Microbial nanowires for bioenergy applications

Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2014 Jun:27:88-95. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2013.12.003. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


Microbial nanowires are electrically conductive filaments that facilitate long-range extracellular electron transfer. The model for electron transport along Shewanella oneidensis nanowires is electron hopping/tunneling between cytochromes adorning the filaments. Geobacter sulfurreducens nanowires are comprised of pili that have metal-like conductivity attributed to overlapping pi-pi orbitals of aromatic amino acids. The nanowires of Geobacter species have been implicated in direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET), which may be an important mode of syntrophy in the conversion of organic wastes to methane. Nanowire networks confer conductivity to Geobacter biofilms converting organic compounds to electricity in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and increasing nanowire production is the only genetic manipulation shown to yield strains with improved current-producing capabilities. Introducing nanowires, or nanowire mimetics, might improve other bioenergy strategies that rely on extracellular electron exchange, such as microbial electrosynthesis. Similarities between microbial nanowires and synthetic conducting polymers suggest additional energy-related applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bioelectric Energy Sources / microbiology*
  • Biofilms
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electricity
  • Electron Transport
  • Electrons
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Geobacter / chemistry
  • Geobacter / metabolism
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Nanowires / microbiology*
  • Shewanella / chemistry
  • Shewanella / metabolism
  • Synthetic Biology


  • Methane