Uncovering a Microbial Enigma: Isolation and Characterization of the Streamer-Generating, Iron-Oxidizing, Acidophilic Bacterium "Ferrovum myxofaciens"

D. Barrie Johnson, Kevin B. Hallberg, Sabrina Hedrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


A betaproteobacterium, shown by molecular techniques to have widespread global distribution in extremely acidic (pH 2 to 4) ferruginous mine waters and also to be a major component of "acid streamer" growths in mine-impacted water bodies, has proven to be recalcitrant to enrichment and isolation. A modified "overlay" solid medium was devised and used to isolate this bacterium from a number of mine water samples. The physiological and phylogenetic characteristics of a pure culture of an isolate from an abandoned copper mine ("Ferrovum myxofaciens" strain P3G) have been elucidated. "F. myxofaciens" is an extremely acidophilic, psychrotolerant obligate autotroph that appears to use only ferrous iron as an electron donor and oxygen as an electron acceptor. It appears to use the Calvin-Benson-Bassham pathway to fix CO2 and is diazotrophic. It also produces copious amounts of extracellular polymeric materials that cause cells to attach to each other (and to form small streamer-like growth in vitro) and to different solid surfaces. "F. myxofaciens" can catalyze the oxidative dissolution of pyrite and, like many other acidophiles, is tolerant of many (cationic) transition metals. "F. myxofaciens" and related clone sequences form a monophyletic group within the Betaproteobacteria distantly related to classified orders, with genera of the family Nitrosomonadaceae (lithoautotrophic, ammonium-oxidizing neutrophiles) as the closest relatives. On the basis of the phylogenetic and phenotypic differences of "F. myxofaciens" and other Betaproteobacteria, a new family, "Ferrovaceae," and order, "Ferrovales," within the class Betaproteobacteria are proposed. "F. myxofaciens" is the first extreme acidophile to be described in the class Betaproteobacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-680
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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