Contrasting Effects of Al Substitution on Microbial Reduction of Fe(III) (Hydr)oxides

E B Ekstrom, Deric Learman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aluminum, one of the most abundant elements in soils and sediments, is commonly found co-precipitated with Fe in natural Fe(III) (hydr)oxides; yet, little is known about how Al substitution impacts bacterial Fe(III) reduction. Accordingly, we investigated the reduction of Al substituted (0-13. mol% Al) goethite, lepidocrocite, and ferrihydrite by the model dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducing bacterium (DIRB), Shewanella putrefaciens CN32. Here we reveal that the impact of Al on microbial reduction varies with Fe(III) (hydr)oxide type. No significant difference in Fe(III) reduction was observed for either goethite or lepidocrocite as a function of Al substitution. In contrast, Fe(III) reduction rates significantly decreased with increasing Al substitution of ferrihydrite, with reduction rates of 13% Al-ferrihydrite more than 50% lower than pure ferrihydrite. Although Al substitution changed the minerals' surface area, particle size, structural disorder, and abiotic dissolution rates, we did not observe a direct correlation between any of these physiochemical properties and the trends in bacterial Fe(III) reduction. Based on projected Al-dependent Fe(III) reduction rates, reduction rates of ferrihydrite fall below those of lepidocrocite and goethite at substitution levels equal to or greater than 18. mol% Al. Given the prevalence of Al substitution in natural Fe(III) (hydr)oxides, our results bring into question the conventional assumptions about Fe (hydr)oxide bioavailability and suggest a more prominent role of natural lepidocrocite and goethite phases in impacting DIRB activity in soils and sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7086-7099
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2010


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