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Yes, they can! First proof of bacterial manganese(IV) oxide use for survival near H2S “dead zone”

Jan Henkel
PhD student Jan Henkel with cultures of the H2S-oxidizing Black Sea bacterium, l. before bacterial growth and still dark from brownstone (MnO2), r. after growth-induced precipitation of Mn(Ca)CO3. (Photo: IOW / K. Beck)

The Black Sea, with its permanent stratification, large oxygen-free water masses and extensive zones of toxic hydrogen sulphide (H2S), is an excellent natural laboratory to study survival strategies of specialised organisms in such a hostile environment. IOW Microbiologist Jan Henkel and colleagues have investigated how bacteria are nevertheless able to grow there. The researchers now for the first time present proof in the renowned scientific journal PNAS that a bacterium that frequently occurs near the “dead zone” specifically uses manganese(IV) oxide to gain metabolic energy from H2S and convert it into non-toxic sulphate.

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