The outer-surface, c-type cytochrome OmcZ is essential for optimal current production with Geobacter sulfurreducens, a genetically tractable, environmentally relevant model microorganism for the production of electricity with microbial fuel cells in a diversity of environments. In order to further investigate the role of OmcZ in current production, its location was investigated with immunogold labelling. OmcZ was dispersed throughout the extracellular matrix surrounding the cells that accumulated at the bottom of the culture tubes of cells grown under standard conditions with fumarate as the electron acceptor. When G. sulfurreducens grew as a biofilm on a graphite electrode that served as an anode and the sole electron acceptor for growth, OmcZ was highly concentrated at the biofilm–electrode interface. Controls in which the biofilm was grown on the same graphite material, but with fumarate as the electron acceptor, did not have accumulations of OmcZ at the anode, corresponding with the reduced capacity for current production in fumarate-grown biofilms. The specific localization of OmcZ at the anode surface under current-producing conditions, coupled with the previously published finding that deleting the gene for OmcZ dramatically increases the resistance of electron exchange between the anode and the biofilm, suggests that OmcZ may serve as an electrochemical gate facilitating electron transfer from G. sulfurreducens biofilms to the anode surface.
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