Microbial biofilms as living photoconductors due to ultrafast electron transfer in cytochrome OmcS nanowires

Nat Commun. 2022 Sep 7;13(1):5150. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32659-5.


Light-induced microbial electron transfer has potential for efficient production of value-added chemicals, biofuels and biodegradable materials owing to diversified metabolic pathways. However, most microbes lack photoactive proteins and require synthetic photosensitizers that suffer from photocorrosion, photodegradation, cytotoxicity, and generation of photoexcited radicals that are harmful to cells, thus severely limiting the catalytic performance. Therefore, there is a pressing need for biocompatible photoconductive materials for efficient electronic interface between microbes and electrodes. Here we show that living biofilms of Geobacter sulfurreducens use nanowires of cytochrome OmcS as intrinsic photoconductors. Photoconductive atomic force microscopy shows up to 100-fold increase in photocurrent in purified individual nanowires. Photocurrents respond rapidly (<100 ms) to the excitation and persist reversibly for hours. Femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy and quantum dynamics simulations reveal ultrafast (~200 fs) electron transfer between nanowire hemes upon photoexcitation, enhancing carrier density and mobility. Our work reveals a new class of natural photoconductors for whole-cell catalysis.

PMID:36071037 | PMC:PMC9452534 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-022-32659-5


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