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Volume 583 Issue 7816, 16 July 2020

Nodular system

It has long been suggested that microbes might exist that can derive their energy needs from the oxidation of manganese. In this week’s issue, Hang Yu and Jared Leadbetter present a co-culture of two bacterial species that can use free energy from manganese oxidation to drive both their growth and the fixation of inorganic carbon into biomass. In so doing, the bacteria generate the discrete, macroscopic nodules of manganese oxide shown on the cover. The two species — designated as ‘Candidatus Manganitrophus noduliformans’ and Ramlibacter lithotrophicus by the researchers — grow together as manganese autotrophs. The first species has not yet been isolated from the second, and the second does not oxidize manganese when isolated. The discovery increases the number of known inorganic metabolisms that support life, and has implications for understanding the formation of manganese nodules on the deep-sea floor.

Cover image: Hang Yu

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