A hair-like protein hidden inside bacteria serves as a sort of on-off switch for nature’s “electric grid,” a global web of bacteria-generated nanowires that permeates all oxygen-less soil and deep ocean beds, Yale researchers reported online on September 1, 2021 in Nature. Nature. The article is titled “Structure of Geobacter Pili Reveals Secretory Rather Than Nanowire Behaviour.” “The ground beneath our feet, the entire globe, is electrically wired,” said Nikhil Malvankar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at The Microbial Sciences Institute at Yale University and senior author of the paper. “These previously hidden bacterial hairs are the molecular switch controlling the release of nanowires that make up nature’s electrical grid.” Almost all living things breathe oxygen to get rid of excess electrons when converting nutrients into energy. Without access to oxygen, however, soil bacteria living deep under oceans or buried underground over billions of years have developed a way to respire by “breathing minerals,” like snorkeling, through tiny protein filaments called nanowires.
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