The diversity of microbially mediated redox processes that occur in marine sediments is likely underestimated, especially with respect to the metabolisms that involve solid substrate electron donors or acceptors. Though electrochemical studies that utilize poised potential electrodes as a surrogate for solid substrate or mineral interactions have shed some much needed light on these areas, these studies have traditionally been limited to one redox potential or metabolic condition. This work seeks to uncover the diversity of microbes capable of accepting cathodic electrons from a marine sediment utilizing a range of redox potentials, by coupling electrochemical enrichment approaches to microbial cultivation and isolation techniques. Five lab-scale three-electrode electrochemical systems were constructed, using electrodes that were initially incubated in marine sediment at cathodic or electron-donating voltages (five redox potentials between −400 and −750 mV versus Ag/AgCl) as energy sources for enrichment. Electron uptake was monitored in the laboratory bioreactors and linked to the reduction of supplied terminal electron acceptors (nitrate or sulfate). Enriched communities exhibited differences in community structure dependent on poised redox potential and terminal electron acceptor used. Further cultivation of microbes was conducted using media with reduced iron (Fe0, FeCl2) and sulfur (S0) compounds as electron donors, resulting in the isolation of six electrochemically active strains. The isolates belong to the genera Vallitalea of the Clostridia, Arcobacter of the Epsilonproteobacteria, Desulfovibrio of the Deltaproteobacteria, and Vibrio and Marinobacter of the Gammaproteobacteria. Electrochemical characterization of the isolates with cyclic voltammetry yielded a wide range of midpoint potentials (99.20 to −389.1 mV versus Ag/AgCl), indicating diverse metabolic pathways likely support the observed electron uptake. Our work demonstrates culturing under various electrochemical and geochemical regimes allows for enhanced cultivation of diverse cathode-oxidizing microbes from one environmental system. Understanding the mechanisms of solid substrate oxidation from environmental microbes will further elucidation of the ecological relevance of these electron transfer interactions with implications for microbe-electrode technologies.
A taxonomic and physiologic characterization was carried out on Thioclavastrain ElOx9T, which was isolated from a bacterial consortium enriched on electrodes poised at electron donating potentials. The isolate is Gram-negative, catalase-positive and oxidase-positive; the cells are motile short rods. The bacterium is facultatively anaerobic with the ability to utilize nitrate as an electron acceptor. Autotrophic growth with H2 and S0 (oxidized to sulfate) was observed. The isolate also grows heterotrophically with organic acids and sugars. Growth was observed at salinities from 0 to 10% NaCl and at temperatures from 15 to 41 °C. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA gene sequences indicated that the strain belongs in the genus Thioclava; it had the highest sequence similarity of 98.8 % to Thioclava atlantica13D2W-2T, followed by Thioclava dalianensis DLFJ1-1T with 98.5 % similarity, Thioclava pacificaTL 2T with 97.7 % similarity, and then Thioclava indicaDT23-4T with 96.9 %. All other sequence similarities were below 97 % to characterized strains. The digital DNA–DNA hybridization estimated when compared to T. atlantica 13D2W-2T, T. dalianensisDLFJ1-1T, T. pacificaTL 2T and T. indicaDT23-4T were 15.8±2.1, 16.7+2.1, 14.3±1.9 and 18.3±2.1 %. The corresponding average nucleotide identity values between these strains were determined to be 65.1, 67.8, 68.4 and 64.4 %, respectively. The G+C content of the chromosomal DNA is 63.4 mol%. Based on these results, a novel species Thioclavaelectrotropha sp. nov. is proposed, with the type strain ElOx9T (=DSM 103712T=ATCC TSD-100T).