Bacteria-Driven Corrosion


Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) is a complex biogeochemical process involving interactions between microbes, metals, minerals, and their environment. We hypothesized that sediment-derived iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB) would colonize and become numerically abundant on steel surfaces incubated in coastal marine environments. To test this, steel coupons were incubated on sediments over 40 days, and samples were taken at regular intervals to examine microbial community succession. The experiments were conducted at two locations: (1) a brackish salt marsh stream and (2) a coastal marine bay. We analyzed DNA extracted from the MIC biofilms for bacterial diversity using high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the SSU rRNA gene, and two coupons from the coastal site were single cell sorted and screened for the SSU rRNA gene. We quantified communities of Zetaproteobacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), and total bacteria and archaea using qPCR analyses. Zetaproteobacteria and SRB were identified in the sequencing data and qPCR analyses for samples collected throughout the incubations and were also present in adjacent sediments. At the brackish site, the diversity of Zetaproteobacteria was lower on the steel compared to sediments, consistent with the expected enrichment of FeOB on steel. Their numbers increased rapidly over the first 10 days. At the marine site, Zetaproteobacteria and other known FeOB were not detected in sediments; however, the numbers of Zetaproteobacteria increased dramatically within 10 days on the steel surface, although their diversity was nearly clonal. Iron oxyhydroxide stalk biosignatures were observed on the steel and in earlier enrichment culture studies; this is evidence that the Zetaproteobacteria identified in the qPCR, pyrosequencing, and single cell data were likely FeOB. In the brackish environment, members of freshwater FeOB were also present, but were absent in the fully marine site. This work indicates there is a successional pattern in the colonization of steel surfaces with FeOB being early colonizers; over time the MIC community matures to include other members that may help accelerate corrosion. This work also shows there is a reservoir for Zetaproteobacteria in coastal sediment habitats, where they may influence the coastal iron cycle, and can rapidly colonize steel surfaces or other sources of Fe(II) when available


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