Multi-wavelength Raman microscopy of nickel-based electron transport in cable bacteria

Bent Smets, Henricus T.S. Boschker, Maxwell T. Wetherington, Gérald Lelong, Silvia Hidalgo-Martinez, Lubos Polerecky, Gert Nuyts, Karolien De Wael, Filip J.R. Meysman

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Cable bacteria embed a network of conductive protein fibers in their cell envelope that efficiently guides electron transport over distances spanning up to several centimeters. This form of long-distance electron transport is unique in biology and is mediated by a metalloprotein with a sulfur-coordinated nickel (Ni) cofactor. However, the molecular structure of this cofactor remains presently unknown. Here, we applied multi-wavelength Raman microscopy to identify cell compounds linked to the unique cable bacterium physiology, combined with stable isotope labeling, and orientation-dependent and ultralow-frequency Raman microscopy to gain insight into the structure and organization of this novel Ni-cofactor. Raman spectra of native cable bacterium filaments reveal vibrational modes originating from cytochromes, polyphosphate granules, proteins, as well as the Ni-cofactor. After selective extraction of the conductive fiber network from the cell envelope, the Raman spectrum becomes simpler, and primarily retains vibrational modes associated with the Ni-cofactor. These Ni-cofactor modes exhibit intense Raman scattering as well as a strong orientation-dependent response. The signal intensity is particularly elevated when the polarization of incident laser light is parallel to the direction of the conductive fibers. This orientation dependence allows to selectively identify the modes that are associated with the Ni-cofactor. We identified 13 such modes, some of which display strong Raman signals across the entire range of applied wavelengths (405–1,064 nm). Assignment of vibrational modes, supported by stable isotope labeling, suggest that the structure of the Ni-cofactor shares a resemblance with that of nickel bis(1,2-dithiolene) complexes. Overall, our results indicate that cable bacteria have evolved a unique cofactor structure that does not resemble any of the known Ni-cofactors in biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1208033
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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