Electron Transfer Strategies Regulate Carbonate Mineral and Micropore Formation
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Some microbial carbonates are robust biosignatures due to their distinct morphologies and compositions. However, whether carbonates induced by microbial iron reduction have such features is unknown. Iron-reducing bacteria use various strategies to transfer electrons to iron oxide minerals (e.g., membrane-bound enzymes, soluble electron shuttles, nanowires, as well as different mechanisms for moving over or attaching to mineral surfaces). This diversity has the potential to create mineral biosignatures through manipulating the microenvironments in which carbonate precipitation occurs. We used Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, Geothrix fermentans, and Geobacter metallireducens GS-15, representing three different strategies, to reduce solid ferric hydroxide in order to evaluate their influence on carbonate and micropore formation (micro-size porosity in mineral rocks). Our results indicate that electron transfer strategies determined the morphology (rhombohedral, spherical, or long-chained) of precipitated calcium-rich siderite by controlling the level of carbonate saturation and the location of carbonate formation. Remarkably, electron transfer strategies also produced distinctive cell-shaped micropores in both carbonate and hydroxide minerals, thus producing suites of features that could potentially serve as biosignatures recording information about the sizes, shapes, and physiologies of iron-reducing organisms. Key Words: Microbial iron reduction-Micropore-Electron transfer strategies-Microbial carbonate. Astrobiology 18, 28-36.
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