Indexed on: 15 Jun '11Published on: 15 Jun '11Published in: Trends in Microbiology
Before cyanobacteria invented oxygenic photosynthesis and O(2) and H(2)O began to cycle between respiration and photosynthesis, redox cycles between other elements were used to sustain microbial metabolism on a global scale. Today these cycles continue to occur in more specialized niches. In this review we focus on the bioenergetic aspects of one of these cycles - the iron cycle - because iron presents unique and fascinating challenges for cells that use it for energy. Although iron is an important nutrient for nearly all life forms, we restrict our discussion to energy-yielding pathways that use ferrous iron [Fe(II)] as an electron donor or ferric iron [Fe(III)] as an electron acceptor. We briefly review general concepts in bioenergetics, focusing on what is known about the mechanisms of electron transfer in Fe(II)-oxidizing and Fe(III)-reducing bacteria, and highlight aspects of their bioenergetic pathways that are poorly understood.