The potential for nonenzymatic reduction of Fe(III) either by organic compounds or by the development of a low redox potential during microbial metabolism was compared with direct, enzymatic Fe(III) reduction by Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms. At circumneutral pH, very few organic compounds nonenzymatically reduced Fe(III). In contrast, in the presence of the appropriate Fe(IH)-reducing microorganisms, most of the organic compounds examined could be completely oxidized to carbon dioxide with the reduction of Fe(III). Even for those organic compounds that could nonenzymatically reduce Fe(III), microbial Fe(III) reduction was much more extensive. The development of a low redox potential during microbial fermentation did not result in nonenzymatic Fe(III) reduction. Model organic compounds were readily oxidized in Fe(III)-reducing aquifer sediments, but not in sterilized sediments. These results suggest that microorganisms enzymatically catalyze most of the Fe(III) reduction in the Fe(III) reduction zone of aquatic sediments and aquifers.
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Enzymatic versus nonenzymatic mechanisms for Fe(III) reduction in aquatic sediments