Changes in bacterial community structure and humic acid composition in response to enhanced extracellular electron transfer process in coastal sediment

  • Jiulong Zhao
  • Long Wang
  • Lili Tang
  • Rui Ren
  • Wuxin You
  • Robina Farooq
  • Zejie WangEmail author
  • Yongyu Zhang
Original Paper


Humic acids are one of the main organic matters in sediments and contribute importantly to the marine biogeochemical cycles. Extracellular electron transfer is a ubiquitous natural process and has potentials to change the macrostructure of humic acids which can act as an electron shuttle. By setting up marine sediment microbial fuel cells, the present study revealed that enhanced extracellular electron transfer process could increase the content of C and H, but decrease the O content in humic acids, which could result in an increased aromaticity and decreased polarity of humic acids, whereas no significant changes occurred to the humification degree of the humic acids. Specific bacterial groups as potential exoelectrogens including Proteobacteria (especially Pseudomonas strains) and Firmicutes were enriched under enhanced extracellular electron transfer process, indicating that they were active to exchange electrons and might play important roles during the changes of humic acids, while the relative abundance of Verrucomicrobia and Bacteroidetes was reduced during these processes. The results of the present research shed lights on the relation between exoelectrogens and the transformation of humic acids in coastal sediment, while the microbial process and mechanisms behind it require further study.


Humic acids Extracellular electron transfer Exoelectrogens Bacterial community structure Sediment microbial fuel cell 



This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFA0601402), the Open Task of Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (Grant no. QNLM2016ORP0311), 2017 President’s International Fellowship Initiative of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS PIFI 2017VCA0019) supported the contribution of Robina Farooq, QIBEBT and Dalian National Laboratory For Clean Energy (DNL), CAS (Grant: QIBEBT ZZBS 201805).

Author contributions

Zejie Wang and Jiulong Zhao carried out the experiment and wrote the paper. Long Wang contributed to bioinformatics and statistical analysis. Lili Tang, Rui Ren, and WuxinYou helped to carry out the DNA extraction, elemental analysis, and FT-IR analysis. Robina Farooq and Yongyu Zhang contributed to the experimental design and data analysis. All authors participated in the interpretation of the results, critically revising manuscripts, and approving the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biofuels, Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Energy GeneticsQingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Environmental Science and EngineeringQilu University of Technology (Shandong Academy of Sciences)JinanChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Institute of Marine Microbes and EcospheresXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  5. 5.Plant BiochemistryRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  6. 6.Department of Chemical EngineeringCOMSATS Institute of Information TechnologyLahorePakistan

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