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Mixotrophic iron-oxidizing Thiomonas isolates from an acid mine drainage-affected creek

November 1, 2020

Natural attenuation of heavy metals occurs via coupled microbial iron cycling and metal precipitation in creeks impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD). Here, we describe the isolation, characterization, and genomic sequencing of two iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) species: Thiomonas ferrovorans FB-6 and Thiomonas metallidurans FB-Cd, isolated from slightly acidic (pH 6.3), Fe-rich, AMD-impacted creek sediments. These strains precipitated amorphous iron oxides, lepidocrocite, goethite, and magnetite or maghemite and grew at a pH optimum of 5.5. While Thiomonas spp. are known as mixotrophic sulfur oxidizers and As oxidizers, the FB strains oxidized Fe, which suggests they can efficiently remove Fe and other metals via coprecipitation. Previous evidence for Thiomonas sp. Fe oxidation is largely ambiguous, possibly because of difficulty demonstrating Fe oxidation in heterotrophic/mixotrophic organisms. Therefore, we also conducted a genomic analysis to identify genetic mechanisms of Fe oxidation, other metal transformations, and additional adaptations, comparing the two FB strain genomes with 12 other Thiomonas genomes. The FB strains fall within a relatively novel group of Thiomonas strains that includes another strain (b6) with solid evidence of Fe oxidation. Most Thiomonas isolates, including the FB strains, have the putative iron oxidation gene cyc2, but only the two FB strains possess the putative Fe oxidase genes mtoAB. The two FB strain genomes contain the highest numbers of strain-specific gene clusters, greatly increasing the known Thiomonas genetic potential. Our results revealed that the FB strains are two distinct novel species of Thiomonas with the genetic potential for bioremediation of AMD via iron oxidation.