Electric Cables of Living Cells. II. Bacterial Electron Conductors

Biochemistry (Mosc). 2020 Aug;85(8):955-965. doi: 10.1134/S0006297920080118.


The concept of "electric cables" involved in bioenergetic processes of a living cell was proposed half a century ago [Skulachev, V. P. (1971) Curr. Top. Bioenerg., Elsevier, pp. 127-190]. For many decades, only cell membrane structures have been considered as probable pathways for the electric current, namely, for the transfer of transmembrane electrochemical potential. However, the last ten to fifteen years have brought the discovery of bacterial "electric cables" of a new type. In 2005, "nanowires" conducting electric current over distances of tens of micrometers were discovered in metal- and sulphate-reducing bacteria [Reguera, G. et al. (2005) Nature, 435, pp. 1098-1101]. The next five years have witnessed the discovery of microbial electric currents over centimeter distances [Nielsen, L. P. et al. (2010) Nature, 463, 1071-1074]. This new group of bacteria allowing electric currents to flow over macroscopic distances was later called cable bacteria. Nanowires and conductive structures of cable bacteria serve to solve a special problem of membrane bioenergetics: they connect two redox half-reactions. In other words, unlike membrane "cables", their function is electron transfer in the course of oxidative phosphorylation for the generation of membrane energy rather than of the end-product. The most surprising is the protein nature of these cables (at least of some of them) indicated by recent data, since no protein wires for the long-distance electron transport had been previously known in living systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochromes / metabolism
  • Electric Conductivity*
  • Electron Transport
  • Electrons
  • Fimbriae Proteins / metabolism
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Geobacter / cytology*
  • Geobacter / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Protein Conformation


  • Cytochromes
  • Fimbriae Proteins