Oxygen consumption in marine sediments is often coupled to the oxidation of sulphide generated by degradation of organic matter in deeper, oxygen-free layers. Geochemical observations have shown that this coupling can be mediated by electric currents carried by unidentified electron transporters across centimetre-wide zones. Here we present evidence that the native conductors are long, filamentous bacteria. They abounded in sediment zones with electric currents and along their length they contained strings with distinct properties in accordance with a function as electron transporters. Living, electrical cables add a new dimension to the understanding of interactions in nature and may find use in technology development.
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The authors thank P. G. Sørensen and L. B. Pedersen for construction of microsensors. Thanks to K. E. Thomsen for operating the TEM. B. B. Jørgensen is thanked for his general support. This research was financially supported by the European Research Council (L.P.N.), the Danish National Research Foundation (N.R.-P., C.P., K.U.K., L.S., M.D.), the Danish Council for Independent Research | Natural Sciences (FNU) (L.P.N.), the German Max Planck Society (N.R.-P., C.P., K.U.K., L.S.) and the Villum Foundation (M.D.).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Pfeffer, C., Larsen, S., Song, J. et al. Filamentous bacteria transport electrons over centimetre distances. Nature 491, 218–221 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11586
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