Extracellular electron transfer is the key metabolic trait that enables some bacteria to play a significant role in the biogeochemical cycling of metals and in bioelectrochemical devices such as microbial fuel cells. In Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, electrons generated in the cytoplasm by catabolic processes must cross the periplasmic space to reach terminal oxidoreductases found at the cell surface. Lack of knowledge on how these electrons flow across the periplasmic space is one of the unresolved issues related with extracellular electron transfer. Using NMR to probe protein–protein interactions, kinetic measurements of electron transfer and electrostatic calculations, we were able to identify protein partners and their docking sites, and determine the dissociation constants. The results showed that both STC (small tetrahaem cytochrome c) and FccA (flavocytochrome c) interact with their redox partners, CymA and MtrA, through a single haem, avoiding the establishment of stable redox complexes capable of spanning the periplasmic space. Furthermore, we verified that the most abundant periplasmic cytochromes STC, FccA and ScyA (monohaem cytochrome c5) do not interact with each other and this is likely to be the consequence of negative surface charges in these proteins. This reveals the co-existence of two non-mixing redox pathways that lead to extracellular electron transfer in S. oneidensis MR-1 established through transient protein interactions.

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