Abiotic oxidation of Fe(II) by reactive nitrogen species in cultures of the nitrate-reducing Fe(II) oxidizer Acidovorax sp. BoFeN1 – questioning the existence of enzymatic Fe(II) oxidation



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 11, Issue 4, 396, Article first published online: 18 June 2013

Corresponding author: A. Kappler. Tel.: +49 7071 2974992; fax: +49 7071 29 295059; e-mail: andreas.kappler@uni-tuebingen.de


Nitrate-reducing, Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria were suggested to couple with enzymatic Fe(II) oxidation to nitrate reduction. Denitrification proceeds via intermediates (math formula, NO) that can oxidize Fe(II) abiotically at neutral and particularly at acidic pH. Here, we present a revised Fe(II) quantification protocol preventing artifacts during acidic Fe extraction and evaluate the contribution of abiotic vs. enzymatic Fe(II) oxidation in cultures of the nitrate-reducing, Fe(II) oxidizer Acidovorax sp. BoFeN1. Sulfamic acid used instead of HCl reacts with nitrite and prevents abiotic Fe(II) oxidation during Fe extraction. Abiotic experiments without sulfamic acid showed that acidification of oxic Fe(II) nitrite samples leads to 5.6-fold more Fe(II) oxidation than in anoxic samples because the formed NO becomes rapidly reoxidized by O2, therefore leading to abiotic oxidation and underestimation of Fe(II). With our revised protocol using sulfamic acid, we quantified oxidation of approximately 7 mm of Fe(II) by BoFeN1 within 4 days. Without addition of sulfamic acid, the same oxidation was detected within only 2 days. Additionally, abiotic incubation of Fe(II) with nitrite in the presence of goethite as surface catalyst led to similar abiotic Fe(II) oxidation rates as observed in growing BoFeN1 cultures. BoFeN1 growth was observed on acetate with N2O as electron acceptor. When adding Fe(II), no Fe(II) oxidation was observed, suggesting that the absence of reactive N intermediates (math formula, NO) precludes Fe(II) oxidation. The addition of ferrihydrite [Fe(OH)3] to acetate/nitrate BoFeN1 cultures led to growth stimulation equivalent to previously described effects on growth by adding Fe(II). This suggests that elevated iron concentrations might provide a nutritional effect rather than energy-yielding Fe(II) oxidation. Our findings therefore suggest that although enzymatic Fe(II) oxidation by denitrifiers cannot be fully ruled out, its contribution to the observed Fe(II) oxidation in microbial cultures is probably lower than previously suggested and has to be questioned in general until the enzymatic machinery-mediating Fe(II) oxidation is identified.