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The mud is electric

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Science  21 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6506, pp. 902-905
DOI: 10.1126/science.369.6506.902

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Summary

What began with the mysterious disappearance of hydrogen sulfide from a container of mud led to the discovery of electron-conducting cable bacteria. They transfer electrons gained by breaking down hydrogen sulfide to oxygen-rich sediments and electron acceptors close to the mud surface or to plant roots. These microbes and nanowire bacteria, which conduct electrons through nanometers-long protein wires, are proving ubiquitous. Together, they are forcing researchers to rewrite textbooks; rethink the role that mud bacteria play in recycling key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous; and reconsider how they influence aquatic ecosystems and climate change. Scientists are also pursuing practical applications, exploring the potential of cable and nanowire bacteria to battle pollution and power electronic devices.

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