Geobacter sulfurreducens is an electroactive bacterium capable of reducing metal oxides in the environment and electrodes in engineered systems1,2. To respire extracellular electron acceptors with a wide range of redox potentials, G. sulfurreducens has a complex network of respiratory proteins, many of which are membrane-bound3–5. We have identified intracytoplasmic membrane (ICM) structures in G. sulfurreducens. This ICM is an invagination of the inner membrane that has folded and organized by an unknown mechanism, often but not always located near the tip of a cell. Using confocal microscopy, we can identify that at least half of the cells contain an ICM when grown at low potentials, whereas cells grown at higher potentials or using fumarate as electron acceptor had significantly lower ICM frequency. 3D models developed from cryoelectron tomograms show the ICM to be a continuous extension of the inner membrane in contact with the cytoplasmic and periplasmic space. The differential abundance of ICM in cells grown under different thermodynamic conditions supports the hypothesis that it is an adaptation to limited energy availability, as an increase in membrane-bound respiratory proteins could increase electron flux. Thus, the ICM provides extra inner-membrane surface to increase the abundance of these proteins. G. sulfurreducens is the first Thermodesulfobacterium or metal-oxide reducer found to produce ICMs.
Ethan Howley, Anna Mangus, Dewight R Williams