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Anaerobic production of magnetite by a dissimilatory iron-reducing microorganism


The potential contribution of microbial metabolism to the magnetization of sediments has only recently been recognized. In the presence of oxygen, magnetotactic bacteria can form intracellular chains of magnetite while using oxygen or nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor for metabolism1. The production of ultrafine-grained magnetite by magnetotactic bacteria in surficial aerobic sediments may contribute significantly to the natural remanent magnetism of sediments2–4. However, recent studies on iron reduction in anaerobic sediments suggested that bacteria can also generate magnetite in the absence of oxygen5. We report here on a sediment organism, designated GS-15, which produces copious quantities of ultrafine-grained magnetite under anaerobic conditions. GS-15 is not magnetotactic, but reduces amorphic ferric oxide to extracellular magnetite during the reduction of ferric iron as the terminal electron acceptor for organic matter oxidation. This novel metabolism may be the mechanism for the formation of ultrafine-grained magnetite in anaerobic sediments, and couldaccount for the accumulation of magnetite in ancient iron formations and hydrocarbon deposits.

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Lovley, D., Stolz, J., Nord, G. et al. Anaerobic production of magnetite by a dissimilatory iron-reducing microorganism. Nature 330, 252–254 (1987).

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