Anaerobic, Nitrate-Dependent Oxidation of Pyrite Nanoparticles by <i>Thiobacillus denitrificans</i>

Pyrite is a key mineral in the global biogeochemical cycles of sulfur and iron, yet its anaerobic microbial oxidation has eluded geochemists and microbiologists for decades. Recent reports indicated that anaerobic oxidation of pyrite is occurring, but the mechanism remains unclear. Here, we provide evidence for the capability of <i>Thiobacillus denitrificans</i> to anaerobically oxidize a putatively nanosized pyrite particle fraction with nitrate as electron acceptor. Nanosized pyrite was readily oxidized to ferric iron and sulfate with a rate of 10.1 μM h<sup>–1</sup>. The mass balance of pyrite oxidation and nitrate reduction revealed a closed recovery of the electrons. This substantiates a further “missing lithotrophy” in the global cycles of sulfur and iron and emphasizes the high reactivity of nanominerals in the environment.