A Single Bacterium Capable of Oxidation and Reduction of Iron at Circumneutral pH

Microbiol Spectr. 2021 Sep 3;9(1):e0016121. doi: 10.1128/Spectrum.00161-21. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


Fe(II)-oxidizing microorganisms and Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms, which drive the biogeochemical Fe cycle on the Earth's surface, are phylogenetically and ecologically diverse. However, no single organism capable of aerobic Fe(II) oxidation and anaerobic Fe(III) reduction at circumneutral pH have been reported so far. Here, we report a novel neutrophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing Rhodoferax bacterium, strain MIZ03, isolated from an iron-rich wetland in Japan. Our cultivation experiments demonstrate that MIZ03 represents a much more versatile metabolism for energy acquisition than previously recognized in the genus Rhodoferax. MIZ03 can grow chemolithoautotrophically at circumneutral pH by oxidation of Fe(II), H2, or thiosulfate as the sole electron donor under (micro)aerobic conditions (i.e., using O2 as the sole electron acceptor). In addition, it can reduce Fe(III) or nitrate under anaerobic conditions. Thus, this is the first report demonstrating the presence of a single bacterium capable of both Fe(II) oxidation and Fe(III) reduction at circumneutral pH. The observed physiology was consistent with its 4.9-Mbp complete genome encoding key genes for iron oxidation/reduction (foxEY and mtrABC), for nitrate reduction (narGHI), for thiosulfate oxidation (soxABCDXYZ), and for carbon fixation via the Calvin cycle. Our metagenomic survey suggests that there are more Rhodoferax members capable of Fe(II) oxidation and Fe(III) reduction. Such bifunctional Rhodoferax may have an ecological advantage in suboxic/anoxic environments at circumneutral pH by recycling of Fe as the electron donor and acceptor. IMPORTANCE The biogeochemical cycle of iron (Fe) via reactions of oxidation, reduction, precipitation, and dissolution is involved in the cycle of other ecologically relevant elements, such as C, N, P, S, As, Co, Ni, and Pb. The Fe cycle on the Earth's surface is driven by a variety of Fe(II)-oxidizing microorganisms and Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms. Here, we discovered a novel bacterium, Rhodoferax sp. strain MIZ03, capable of both Fe(II) oxidation and Fe(III) reduction at circumneutral pH, and we report its physiological characteristics and complete genome sequence. The unexpected capability of this bacterium provides novel insights into the Fe cycle in the environment. Moreover, this bacterium will help to better understand the molecular mechanisms of microbial Fe redox cycling as a model organism.

Keywords: Rhodoferax; chemolithotrophy; iron cycling; iron oxidizers; iron reduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Chemoautotrophic Growth
  • Comamonadaceae / classification
  • Comamonadaceae / genetics
  • Comamonadaceae / isolation & purification
  • Comamonadaceae / metabolism*
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry
  • Ferric Compounds / metabolism*
  • Ferrous Compounds / chemistry
  • Ferrous Compounds / metabolism*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Japan
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phylogeny
  • Wetlands


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Ferrous Compounds
  • Hydrogen