Thursday, June 16, 2016

In these microbes, iron works like oxygen

Mostly I post stuff I think will be useful in your lives, or I want to keep a record of it for my own use, but sometimes I post stuff like this, which is just interesting.

Public Release: 15-Apr-2016
In these microbes, iron works like oxygen
University of Wisconsin-Madison

A pair of papers from a UW-Madison geoscience lab shed light on a curious group of bacteria that use iron in much the same way that animals use oxygen: to soak up electrons during biochemical reactions. When organisms -- whether bacteria or animal -- oxidize carbohydrates, electrons must go somewhere.

The studies can shed some light on the perennial question of how life arose, but they also have slightly more practical applications in the search for life in space, says senior author Eric Roden, a professor of geoscience at UW-Madison.

Animals use oxygen and "reduce" it to produce water, but some bacteria use iron that is deficient in electrons, reducing it to a more electron-rich form of the element. Ironically, electron-rich forms of iron can also supply electrons in the opposite "oxidation" reaction, in which the bacteria literally "eat" the iron to get energy.


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