To learn more about the physiological state of Geobacter species living in subsurface sediments, heat-sterilized sediments from a uranium-contaminated aquifer in Rifle, Colorado, were inoculated with Geobacter uraniireducens, a pure culture representative of the Geobacter species that predominates during in situ uranium bioremediation at this site. Whole-genome microarray analysis comparing sediment-grown G. uraniireducens with cells grown in defined culture medium indicated that there were 1084 genes that had higher transcript levels during growth in sediments. Thirty-four c-type cytochrome genes were upregulated in the sediment-grown cells, including several genes that are homologous to cytochromes that are required for optimal Fe(III) and U(VI) reduction by G. sulfurreducens. Sediment-grown cells also had higher levels of transcripts, indicative of such physiological states as nitrogen limitation, phosphate limitation and heavy metal stress. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR showed that many of the metabolic indicator genes that appeared to be upregulated in sediment-grown G. uraniireducens also showed an increase in expression in the natural community of Geobacter species present during an in situ uranium bioremediation field experiment at the Rifle site. These results demonstrate that it is feasible to monitor gene expression of a microorganism growing in sediments on a genome scale and that analysis of the physiological status of a pure culture growing in subsurface sediments can provide insights into the factors controlling the physiology of natural subsurface communities.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/derek_lovley/70/