Unbalanced fermentation of glycerol in Escherichia coli via heterologous production of an electron transport chain and electrode interaction in microbial electrochemical cells

Bioresour Technol. 2015 Jun;186:89-96. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2015.02.116. Epub 2015 Mar 6.


Microbial electrochemical cells are an emerging technology for achieving unbalanced fermentations. However, organisms that can serve as potential biocatalysts for this application are limited by their narrow substrate spectrum. This study describes the reprogramming of Escherichia coli for the efficient use of anodes as electron acceptors. Electron transfer into the periplasm was accelerated by 183% via heterologous expression of the c-type cytochromes CymA, MtrA and STC from Shewanella oneidensis. STC was identified as a target for heterologous expression via a two-stage screening approach. First, mass spectroscopic analysis revealed natively expressed cytochromes in S. oneidensis. Thereafter, the corresponding genes were cloned and expressed in E. coli to quantify periplasmic electron transfer activity using methylene blue. This redox dye was further used to expand electron transfer to carbon electrode surfaces. The results demonstrate that E. coli can be reprogrammed from glycerol fermentation to respiration upon production of the new electron transport chain.

Keywords: E. coli; Microbial fuel cell; Shewanella oneidensis; Unbalanced fermentation; c-Type cytochrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Respiration / physiology
  • Cytochrome c Group / metabolism
  • Electrodes / microbiology*
  • Electron Transport / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Fermentation / physiology*
  • Glycerol / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Periplasm / metabolism
  • Shewanella / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytochrome c Group
  • Glycerol