Manganese (Mn) oxides are environmentally abundant, highly reactive mineral phases that mediate the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients, contaminants, carbon, and numerous other elements. Despite the belief that microorganisms (specifically bacteria and fungi) are responsible for the majority of Mn oxide formation in the environment, the impact of microbial species, physiology, and growth stage on Mn oxide formation is largely unresolved. Here, we couple microscopic and spectroscopic techniques to characterize the Mn oxides produced by four different species of Mn(II)-oxidizing Ascomycete fungi (Plectosphaerella cucumerina strain DS2psM2a2, Pyrenochaeta sp. DS3sAY3a, Stagonospora sp. SRC1lsM3a, and Acremonium strictum strain DS1bioAY4a) isolated from acid mine drainage treatment systems in central Pennsylvania. The site of Mn oxide formation varies greatly among the fungi, including deposition on hyphal surfaces, at the base of reproductive structures (e.g., fruiting bodies), and on envisaged extracellular polymers adjacent to the cell. The primary product of Mn(II) oxidation for all species growing under the same chemical and physical conditions is a nanoparticulate, poorly-crystalline hexagonal birnessite-like phase resembling synthetic δ-MnO2. The phylogeny and growth conditions (planktonic versus surface-attached) of the fungi, however, impact the conversion of the initial phyllomanganate to more ordered phases, such as todorokite (A. strictum strain DS1bioAY4a) and triclinic birnessite (Stagonospora sp. SRC1lsM3a). Our findings reveal that the species of Mn(II)-oxidizing fungi impacts the size, morphology, and structure of Mn biooxides, which will likely translate to large differences in the reactivity of the Mn oxide phases.
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The authors thank Lu Sun for assistance with fungal sample preparations and Christopher Lentini, Deric Learman, and Adiari Vazquez-Rodriguez for XAS and XRD data collection. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and contributions. Portions of this research were carried out at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, a national user facility operated by Stanford University on behalf of the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources, Biomedical Technology Program. SEM was performed at the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS), a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which is supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF Award No. ECS-0335765. CNS is part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. A portion of this research was also performed using EMSL, a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant Number EAR-0846715, awarded to C.M.H.