Nature & Awareness

Scientists Discovered That Human Intestine Bacteria Produces Electricity

Well you might be familiar with bacteria which produces electricity and you have often seen them on television when researchers or scientists go inside the lakes and oceans to discover those creatures whose characteristics are quite shocking that they appears to be fake but the reality is that they exist and they do produces electricity.

But, that’s not the limit of research yet because what scientists have missed till is ‘the human body’ as possibilities are endless when these microorganisms can exist anywhere in this world.

In University of California, Berkeley, scientists discovered that a common diarrhea-causing bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, produces electricity using an entirely different technique from known electrogenic bacteria, and that hundreds of other bacterial species use this same process.

You definitely wouldn’t believe that most of them  are part of the human gut microbiome, and many, like the bug that causes the food-borne illness listeriosis, which can also cause miscarriages, are pathogenic. The bacteria that cause gangrene (Clostridium perfringens) and hospital-acquired infections (Enterococcus faecalis) and some disease-causing streptococcus bacteria also produce electricity. Other electrogenic bacteria, like Lactobacilli, are important in fermenting yogurt, and many are probiotics.

“The fact that so many bugs that interact with humans, either as pathogens or in probiotics or in our microbiota or involved in fermentation of human products, are electrogenic — that had been missed before,” said Dan Portnoy, a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and of plant and microbial biology. “It could tell us a lot about how these bacteria infect us or help us have a healthy gut.”

It’s a good news for those currently trying to create living batteries from microbes. Such “green” bioenergetic technologies could, for example, generate electricity from bacteria in waste treatment plants.

WHAT ARE ELECTROGENIC BACTERIA ?

Electrogenic bacteria are organisms that can transfer electrons to extracellular electron acceptors and have the potential to be used in devices such as bioelectrochemical systems (BES). In this study, Dietzia sp. RNV-4 bacterium has been isolated and identified based on its biochemical, physiological and morphological characteristics, as well as by its 16S rRNA sequence analysis.

Furthermore, the current density production and electron transfer mechanisms were investigated using bioelectrochemical methods. The chronoamperometric data showed that the biofilm of Dietzia sp. RNV-4 grew as the current increased with time, reaching a maximum of 176.6 ± 66.1 mA/m2 at the end of the experiment (7 d); this highly suggests that the current was generated by the biofilm.

The main electron transfer mechanism, indicated by the cyclic voltammograms, was due to secreted redox mediators. By high performance liquid chromatography, canthaxanthin was identified as the main compound involved in charge transfer between the bacteria and the solid electrodes. Dietzia sp. RNV-4 was used as biological material in a microbial fuel cell (MFC) and the current density production was 299.4 ± 40.2 mA/m2. This is the first time that Dietzia sp. RNV-4 has been electrochemically characterized and identified as a new electrogenic strain.

HOW BACTERIA PRODUCE ELECTRICITY ?

Bacteria generate electricity for the same reason we breathe oxygen: to remove electrons produced during metabolism and support energy production. Whereas animals and plants transfer their electrons to oxygen inside the mitochondria of every cell, bacteria in environments with no oxygen — including our gut, but also alcohol and cheese fermentation vats and acidic mines — have to find another electron acceptor. In geologic environments, that has often been a mineral — iron or manganese, for example — outside the cell. In some sense, these bacteria “breathe” iron or manganese.

Bacteria transfer electrons out of the cell to a mineral requires a cascade of special chemical reactions, the so-called extracellular electron transfer chain, which carries the electrons as a tiny electrical current. Some scientists have tapped that chain to make a battery: stick an electrode in a flask of these bacteria and you can generate electricity.

The latest discovery related to electron transfer system is actually simpler than the already known transfer chain, and seems to be used by bacteria only when necessary, perhaps when oxygen levels are low. So far, this simpler electron transfer chain has been found in bacteria with a single cell wall — microbes classified as gram-positive bacteria — that live in an environment with lots of flavin, which are derivatives of vitamin B2.

“It seems that the cell structure of these bacteria and the vitamin-rich ecological niche that they occupy makes it significantly easier and more cost effective to transfer electrons out of the cell,” said first author Sam Light, a postdoctoral fellow. “Thus, we think that the conventionally studied mineral-respiring bacteria are using extracellular electron transfer because it is crucial for survival, whereas these newly identified bacteria are using it because it is ‘easy.'”

To see how robust this system is, Light teamed up with Caroline Ajo-Franklin from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who explores the interactions between living microbes and inorganic materials for possible applications in carbon capture and sequestration and bio-solar energy generation.

She used an electrode to measure the electric current that streams from the bacteria — up to 500 microamps — confirming that it is indeed electrogenic. In fact, they make about as much electricity — some 100,000 electrons per second per cell — as known electrogenic bacteria.

EXTRACELLULAR ELECTRON TRANSFER IN BACTERIA 

Extracellular electron transfer (EET) describes microbial bioelectrochemical processes in which electrons are transferred from the cytosol to the exterior of the cell.  Mineral-respiring bacteria use elaborate haem-based electron transfer mechanisms but the existence and mechanistic basis of other EETs remain largely unknown. Here we show that the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenesuses a distinctive flavin-based EET mechanism to deliver electrons to iron or an electrode. By performing a forward genetic screen to identify L.

monocytogenes mutants with diminished extracellular ferric iron reductase activity, we identified an eight-gene locus that is responsible for EET. This locus encodes a specialized NADH dehydrogenase that segregates EET from aerobic respiration by channelling electrons to a discrete membrane-localized quinone pool.

Other proteins facilitate the assembly of an abundant extracellular flavoprotein that, in conjunction with free-molecule flavin shuttles, mediates electron transfer to extracellular acceptors. This system thus establishes a simple electron conduit that is compatible with the single-membrane structure of the Gram-positive cell. Activation of EET supports growth on non-fermentable carbon sources, and an EET mutant exhibited a competitive defect within the mouse gastrointestinal tract. Orthologues of the genes responsible for EET are present in hundreds of species across the Firmicutes phylum, including multiple pathogens and commensal members of the intestinal microbiota, and correlate with EET activity in assayed strains.

These findings suggest a greater prevalence of EET-based growth capabilities and establish a previously underappreciated relevance for electrogenic bacteria across diverse environments, including host-associated microbial communities and infectious disease.

 

SOURCE – Sciencedaily

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