Citrate influences microbial Fe hydroxide reduction via a dissolution-disaggregation mechanism


Braunschweig J, Klier C, Schröder C, Handel M, Bosch J, Totsche KU & Meckenstock RU (2014) Citrate influences microbial Fe hydroxide reduction via a dissolution-disaggregation mechanism. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 139, pp. 434-446.

Microbial reduction of ferric iron is partly dependent on Fe hydroxide particle size. Nanosized Fe hydroxides greatly exceed the bioavailability of their counterparts larger than 1 μm. Citrate as a low molecular weight organic acid can likewise stabilize colloidal suspensions against aggregation by electrostatic repulsion but also increase Fe bioavailability by enhancing Fe hydroxide solubility. The aim of this study was to see whether adsorption of citrate onto surfaces of large ferrihydrite aggregates results in the formation of a stable colloidal suspension by electrostatic repulsion and how this effect influences microbial Fe reduction. Furthermore, we wanted to discriminate between citrate-mediated colloid stabilization out of larger aggregates and ferrihydrite dissolution and their influence on microbial Fe hydroxide reduction. Dissolution kinetics of ferrihydrite aggregates induced by different concentrations of citrate and humic acids were compared to microbial reduction kinetics with Geobacter sulfurreducens. Dynamic light scattering results showed the formation of a stable colloidal suspension and colloids with hydrodynamic diameters of 69 (± 37) to 165 (± 65) nm for molar citrate:Fe ratios of 0.1 to 0.5 and partial dissolution of ferrihydrite at citrate:Fe ratios ≥ 0.1. No dissolution or colloid stabilization was detected in the presence of humic acids. Adsorption of citrate, necessary for dissolution, reversed the surface charge and led to electrostatic repulsion between sub-aggregates of ferrihydrite and colloid stabilization when the citrate:Fe ratio was above a critical value (≤ 0.1). Lower ratios resulted in stronger ferrihydrite aggregation instead of formation of a stable colloidal suspension, owing to neutralization of the positive surface charge. At the same time, microbial ferrihydrite reduction increased from 0.029 to 0.184 mM h-1 indicating that colloids stabilized by citrate addition enhanced microbial Fe reduction. Modelling of abiotic dissolution kinetics revealed that colloid stabilization was most pronounced at citrate:Fe ratios of 0.1 – 0.5, whereas higher ratios led to enhanced dissolution of both colloidal and larger aggregated fractions. Mathematical simulation of the microbial reduction kinetics under consideration of partial dissolution and colloid stabilization showed that the bioaccessibility increases in the order large aggregates < stable colloids < Fe-citrate. These findings indicate that much of the organic acid driven mobilization of Fe oxy(hydr)oxides is most likely due to colloid formation and stabilization rather than solubilisation.

Geobacter; citrate; ligand; nanoparticles; electrostatic stabilization; mineraldissolution; mathematical modelling

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta: Volume 139

Publication date31/08/2014
Publication date online31/05/2014
Date accepted by journal03/05/2014