Long-distance electron transport in individual, living cable bacteria

Jesper T. Bjerg*, Henricus T.S. Boschker, Steffen Larsen, David Berry, Markus Schmid, Diego Millo, Paula Tataru, Filip J.R. Meysman, Michael Wagner, Lars Peter Nielsen, Andreas Schramm

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Electron transport within living cells is essential for energy conservation in all respiring and photosynthetic organisms. While a few bacteria transport electrons over micrometer distances to their surroundings, filaments of cable bacteria are hypothesized to conduct electric currents over centimeter distances. We used resonance Raman microscopy to analyze cytochrome redox states in living cable bacteria. Cable-bacteria filaments were placed in microscope chambers with sulfide as electron source and oxygen as electron sink at opposite ends. Along individual filaments a gradient in cytochrome redox potential was detected, which immediately broke down upon removal of oxygen or laser cutting of the filaments. Without access to oxygen, a rapid shift toward more reduced cytochromes was observed, as electrons were no longer drained from the filament but accumulated in the cellular cytochromes. These results provide direct evidence for long-distance electron transport in living multicellular bacteria.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5786-5791
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number22
    Early online date7 May 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2018


    • Cable bacteria
    • Conduction
    • Cytochrome c
    • Electromicrobiology
    • Raman spectroscopy


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