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Recent advances in the roles of minerals for enhanced microbial extracellular electron transfer


Minerals are ubiquitous in the natural environment and have close contact with microorganisms. In various scenarios, microorganisms that harbor extracellular electron transfer (EET) capabilities have evolved a series of beneficial strategies through the mutual exchange of electrons with extracellular minerals to enhance survival and metabolism. These electron exchange interactions are highly relevant to the cycling of elements in the epigeosphere and have a profound significance in bioelectrochemical engineering applications. In this review, we summarize recent advances related to the effects of different minerals that facilitate the EET process and discuss the underlying mechanisms and outlooks for future applications. The promotional effects of minerals arise from their redox-active ability, electrical conductivity and photocatalytic capability. In mineral-promoted EET processes, various responses have concurrently arisen in microorganisms, such as stretching of electrically conductive pili (e-pili), upregulated expression of outer-membrane cytochromes (Cyts) and production of specific enzymes, and secretion of extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs). This review synthesizes the understanding of electron exchange mechanisms between microorganisms and minerals and highlights potential applications in development of renewable energy production and pollutant remediation, which are topics of particular significance to future exploitation of biotechnology.

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