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In vitro assays of washed, excised roots revealed maximum potential ferric iron reduction rates of >100 μmol g (dry weight)-1 day-1 for three freshwater macrophytes and rates between 15 and 83 μmol (dry weight)-1 day-1 for two marine species. The rates varied with root morphology but not consistently (fine root activity exceeded smooth root activity in some but not all cases). Sodium molybdate added at final concentrations of 0.2 to 20 mM did not inhibit iron reduction by roots of marine macrophytes (Spartina alterniflora and Zostera marina). Roots of a freshwater macrophyte, Sparganium eurycarpum, that were incubated with an analog of humic acid precursors, anthroquinone disulfate (AQDS), reduced freshly precipitated iron oxyhydroxide contained in dialysis bags that excluded solutes with molecular weights of > 1,000; no reduction occurred in the absence of AQDS. Bacterial enrichment cultures and isolates from freshwater and marine roots used a variety of carbon and energy sources (e.g., acetate, ethanol, succinate, toluene, and yeast extract) and ferric oxyhydroxide, ferric citrate, uranate, and AQDS as terminal electron acceptors. The temperature optima for a freshwater isolate and a marine isolate were equivalent (approximately 32°C). However, iron reduction by the freshwater isolate decreased with increasing salinity, while reduction by the marine isolate displayed a relatively broad optimum salinity between 20 and 35 ppt. Our results suggest that by participating in an active iron cycle and perhaps by reducing humic acids, iron reducers in the rhizoplane of aquatic macrophytes limit organic availability to other heterotrophs (including methanogens) in the rhizosphere and bulk sediments.

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Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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