Baltic Sea methanogens compete with acetogens for electrons from metallic iron

ISME J. 2019 Dec;13(12):3011-3023. doi: 10.1038/s41396-019-0490-0. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Microbially induced corrosion of metallic iron (Fe0)-containing structures is an environmental and economic hazard. Methanogens are abundant in low-sulfide environments and yet their specific role in Fe0 corrosion is poorly understood. In this study, Sporomusa and Methanosarcina dominated enrichments from Baltic Sea methanogenic sediments that were established with Fe0 as the sole electron donor and CO2 as the electron acceptor. The Baltic-Sporomusa was phylogenetically affiliated to the electroactive acetogen S. silvacetica. Baltic-Sporomusa adjusted rapidly to growth on H2. On Fe0, spent filtrate enhanced growth of this acetogen suggesting that it was using endogenous enzymes to retrieve electrons and produce acetate. Previous studies have proposed that acetate produced by acetogens can feed commensal acetoclastic methanogens such as Methanosarcina. However, Baltic-methanogens could not generate methane from acetate, plus the decrease or absence of acetogens stimulated their growth. The decrease in numbers of Sporomusa was concurrent with an upsurge in Methanosarcina and increased methane production, suggesting that methanogens compete with acetogens for electrons from Fe0. Furthermore, Baltic-methanogens were unable to use H2 (1.5 atm) for methanogenesis and were inhibited by spent filtrate additions, indicating that enzymatically produced H2 is not a favorable electron donor. We hypothesize that Baltic-methanogens retrieve electrons from Fe0 via a yet enigmatic direct electron uptake mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism*
  • Corrosion
  • Electrons
  • Firmicutes / classification
  • Firmicutes / genetics
  • Firmicutes / metabolism*
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Methane / metabolism*
  • Methanosarcina / classification
  • Methanosarcina / genetics
  • Methanosarcina / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phylogeny
  • Seawater / microbiology*


  • Acetates
  • Iron
  • Methane