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Transformation of vivianite by anaerobic nitrate-reducing iron-oxidizing bacteria


J. Miot. Tel.: (0033)-1 44 27 98 32; fax: (0033)-1 44 27 37 85; e-mail:


In phosphate-rich environments, vivianite (FeII3(PO4)2, 8H2O) is an important sink for dissolved Fe(II) and is considered as a very stable mineral due to its low solubility at neutral pH. In the present study, we report the mineralogical transformation of vivianite in cultures of the nitrate-reducing iron-oxidizing bacterial strain BoFeN1 in the presence of dissolved Fe(II). Vivianite was first transformed into a greenish phase consisting mostly of an amorphous mixed valence Fe-phosphate. This precipitate became progressively orange and the final product of iron oxidation consisted of an amorphous Fe(III)-phosphate. The sub-micrometer analysis by scanning transmission X-ray microscopy of the iron redox state in samples collected at different stages of the culture indicated that iron was progressively oxidized at the contact of the bacteria and at a distance from the cells in extracellular minerals. Iron oxidation in the extracellular minerals was delayed by a few days compared with cell-associated Fe-minerals. This led to strong differences of Fe redox in between these two types of minerals and finally to local heterogeneities of redox within the sample. In the absence of dissolved Fe(II), vivianite was not significantly transformed by BoFeN1. Whereas Fe(II) oxidation at the cell contact is most probably directly catalyzed by the bacteria, vivianite transformation at a distance from the cells might result from oxidation by nitrite. In addition, processes leading to the export of Fe(III) from bacterial oxidation sites to extracellular minerals are discussed including some involving colloids observed by cryo-transmission electron microscopy in the culture medium.