Long Range Correlation in Redox Potential Fluctuations Signals Energetic Efficiency of Bacterial Fe(II) Oxidation

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Iron-oxidizing bacteria in surface water

Differentiating biotic and abiotic processes in nature remains a persistent challenge, specifically in evaluating microbial contributions to geochemical processes through time.

Building on previous work reporting that biologically-influenced systems exhibit stronger long-range correlation than abiotic systems, this study evaluated the relationship between long-range correlation of redox potential

and oxidation rates of circumneutral microaerophilic bacterial Fe(II) oxidation using a series of batch microcosms with bacteriogenic iron oxides (BIOS). Initial detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) scaling exponents of the abiotic microcosms were lower (ca. 1.20) than those of the biotic microcosms (ca. 1.80). As Fe(II) oxidation proceeded, correlation strength decayed as a logistic function of elapsed reaction time, exhibiting direct dependence on the free energy of reaction.

Correlation strength for all microcosms decayed sharply from strong correlation to uncorrelated fluctuations. The decay rates are greater for abiotic microcosms than biotic microcosms. The ΔGm relaxation edges for biotic microcosms were lower, indicating less remaining free energy for Fe(II) oxidation than abiotic systems, with the implication that biologically-catalyzed reactions are likely more energetically efficient than abiotic reactions. These results strengthen the case for employing novel DFA techniques to distinguish in situ microbial metabolic activity from abiotic processes, as well as to potentially differentiate metabolisms among different chemoautotrophs.

AUTHORS Allison Enright Brock Edwards Grant Ferris
SUBMITTED ON February 21, 2019
LAST EDITED May 09, 2019
SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS osf.io/mv6ha/
https://eartharxiv.org/ujq8c/
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