Open Access Research article

Comparative genomic analysis of Geobacter sulfurreducens KN400, a strain with enhanced capacity for extracellular electron transfer and electricity production

Jessica E Butler*, Nelson D Young, Muktak Aklujkar and Derek R Lovley

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology, 203 Morrill Science Center IVN, University of Massachusetts, 639 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA, 01003, USA

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:471  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-471

Published: 12 September 2012



A new strain of Geobacter sulfurreducens, strain KN400, produces more electrical current in microbial fuel cells and reduces insoluble Fe(III) oxides much faster than the wildtype strain, PCA. The genome of KN400 was compared to wildtype with the goal of discovering how the network for extracellular electron transfer has changed and how these two strains evolved.


Both genomes were re-annotated, resulting in 14 fewer genes (net) in the PCA genome; 28 fewer (net) in the KN400 genome; and ca. 400 gene start and stop sites moved. 96% of genes in KN400 had clear orthologs with conserved synteny in PCA. Most of the remaining genes were in regions of genomic mobility and were strain-specific or conserved in other Geobacteraceae, indicating that the changes occurred post-divergence. There were 27,270 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) between the genomes. There was significant enrichment for SNP locations in non-coding or synonymous amino acid sites, indicating significant selective pressure since the divergence. 25% of orthologs had sequence differences, and this set was enriched in phosphorylation and ATP-dependent enzymes. Substantial sequence differences (at least 12 non-synonymous SNP/kb) were found in 3.6% of the orthologs, and this set was enriched in cytochromes and integral membrane proteins. Genes known to be involved in electron transport, those used in the metabolic cell model, and those that exhibit changes in expression during growth in microbial fuel cells were examined in detail.


The improvement in external electron transfer in the KN400 strain does not appear to be due to novel gene acquisition, but rather to changes in the common metabolic network. The increase in electron transfer rate and yield in KN400 may be due to changes in carbon flux towards oxidation pathways and to changes in ATP metabolism, both of which indicate that the overall energy state of the cell may be different. The electrically conductive pili appear to be unchanged, but cytochrome folding, localization, and redox potentials may all be affected, which would alter the electrical connection between the cell and the substrate.

Geobacter sulfurreducens KN400; Comparative genomics; Microbial fuel cell; Extracellular electron transfer