Membrane vesicles as a novel strategy for shedding encrusted cell surfaces
Surface encrustation by minerals, which impedes cellular metabolism, is a potential hazard for microbes. The reduction of U(VI) to U(IV) by Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 leads to the precipitation of the mineral uraninite, as well as a non-crystalline U(IV) product. The wild-type (WT) strain can produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), prompting precipitation of U some distance from the cells and precluding encrustation. Using cryo-transmission electron microscopy and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy we show that, in the biofilm-deficient mutant Delta mxdA, as well as in the WT strain to a lesser extent, we observe the formation of membrane vesicles (MVs) as an additional means to lessen encrustation. Additionally, under conditions in which the WT does not produce EPS, formation of MVs was the only observed mechanism to mitigate cell encrustation. Viability studies comparing U-free controls to cells exposed to U showed a decrease in the number of viable cells in conditions where MVs alone are detected, yet no loss of viability when cells produce both EPS and MVs. We conclude that MV formation is a microbial strategy to shed encrusted cell surfaces but is less effective at maintaining cell viability than the precipitation of U on EPS.