NanoBio: Microbial Respiration

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Microbial Respiration Basics for non-microbiologists

  • To grow, microorganisms require:
    • a source of nutrients, most importantly C,O,H,N,S,and P.
    • an energy source, frequently in the form of an electron source
    • a terminal electron acceptor.


Highly reduced molecules, e.g. saturated fats, have higher energy content than less reduced molecules, e.g. carbohydrates.

  • In fermentation, no external electron acceptor is required. Rather the terminal electron acceptor is an intermediate of the catabolic pathway which breaks down the energy source.
  • In respiration, an exogenous electron acceptor is used. If the terminal electron acceptor is oxygen, then this process is called aerobic respiration. Otherwise, this process is called anaerobic respiration.
  • Most frequently anaerobic respiration uses an inorganic electron acceptor such as nitrate, sulfate, carbon dioxide, iron (III), but the electron acceptor can also be an organic molecule such as furmurate or humic acid.
  • CAjoF 17:19, 27 November 2007 (CST)
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