Five methanogens (Methanosarcina barkeri MS, Methanosphaera cuniculi 1R7, Methanobacterium palustre F, Methanococcus voltaei A3 and Methanolobus vulcani PL-12/M) were investigated for their ability to reduce Fe(III) oxide and the soluble quinone anthraquinone-2,6-disulphonate (AQDS). Two species (M. barkeri and M. voltaei) reduced significant amounts of Fe(III) oxide using hydrogen as the electron donor, and 0.1 mM AQDS greatly accelerated Fe(III) reduction by these organisms. Although Fe(III) appeared to inhibit growth and methanogenesis of some strains, hydrogen partial pressures under donor-limited conditions were much lower (<0.5 Pa) in the presence of Fe(III) than in normal media (1-10 Pa) for all species except for M. vulcani. These results demonstrate that electrons were transferred to Fe(III) by hydrogen-utilizing methanogens even when growth and methanogenesis were inhibited. All species except the obligate methylotroph M. vulcani were able to reduce AQDS when their growth substrates were present as electron donors, and rates were highest when organisms used hydrogen as the electron donor. Purified soil humic acids could also be reduced by the AQDS-reducing methanogens. The ability of methanogens to interact with extracellular quinones, humic acids and Fe(III) oxides raises the possibility that this functional group of organ-isms contributes to Fe(III) and humic acid reduction under certain conditions in the environment and provides an alternative explanation for the inhibition of methanogenesis in some Fe(III)-containing ecosystems.
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