NInstitute of Oceanology,Chinese Academy of Sciences
Research Progress
How Does AI-2 Affect Carbon Steel Corrosion Caused by Sulfate Reducing Bacteria?


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Sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) are vital corrosive microorganisms, and they are blamed for half of the cost from microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC). Biofilm is the core in corrosion caused by SRB, and the development of biofilms is strictly regulated by bacteria.

Quorum sensing (QS) regulates biofilm development of various bacteria, autoinducer-2 (AI-2) inhibited biofilm formation in cultures with sufficient organic electron donors. However, in the marine environment with deficient organic electron donors, the mechanism of biofilm formation of SRB on carbon steels, and the effects of QS on it and subsequent corrosion are unknown.

Recently, the research team led by Prof. ZHANG Dun from the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS) investigated the influence of AI-2 on the carbon steel corrosion by one strain of genus Desulfovibrio in the culture with extremely deficient organic electron donor.

The study was published in Corrosion Science on Mar. 2.

AI-2 is produced as 4,5-dihydroxy-2,3-pentanedione (DPD), which is then secreted into the solution and cyclizes spontaneously into different isomers including AI-2. Researchers added DPD with a concentration of 15 μM in the SRB culture with the removal of sodium lactate and yeast extract, and found that weight loss of carbon steel increased from (4.1 ± 0.1) to (5.3 ± 0.5) mg/cm2 after 14 days of exposure.

Meanwhile, the count of sessile cells in the culture with AI-2 was about 1.6-fold higher than that in the culture without AI-2, and AI-2 promoted the accumulation of cells on the steel. With no available carbon source, bacteria at the bottom of biofilms will use Fe0 as the electron donor to obtain energy to survive. Due to the increase of bacteria requiring electrons from Fe0, the corrosion of carbon steel was aggravated by AI-2 addition.

How do the bacteria form biofilms on the steel with carbon starvation? It was found that there was a spatial gradient of Fe2+ concentration before and after the steel was corroded by bacteria, and Fe2+ increased the directional motility of bacteria. The bacterial chemotaxis to Fe2+ might regulate the biofilm formation in cultures with steel, and AI-2 might promote biofilm formation by their enhancement in bacterial chemotaxis to Fe2+.

Finally, researchers analyzed the chemotactic signal transduction proteins and possible AI-2 receptor in this strain by the protein Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) comparison.

"This work proves that chemotaxis with AI-2 as the signaling molecule can explain the phenomena that Fe2+ seems to attract SRB cells to carbon steel coupons more than other surfaces such as glass and wood. This is major contribution to SRB MIC mechanisms," said Dr. WU Jiajia, corresponding author of the study.

"This study sheds some light on the initial attachment of SRB on carbon steels, which has been neglected in previous works but vital for the comprehension of SRB corrosion mechanism. And further studies are highly desirable in this topic," said Prof. ZHANG Dun.

This work was financially supported by the Key Projects of China National Key Research and Development Plan, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Key Deployment Project of Center for Ocean Mega-Research of Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences etc.

Proposed mechanism of chemotaxis to Fe2+ of Desulfovibrio sp. and its induced carbon steel corrosion affected by AI-2

LI Ee, WU Jiajia*, ZHANG Dun*, WANG Peng, ZHU Liyang, LI Ce, SUN Zhihua, WANG Yu, XU Ming. (2022). Effect of autoinducer-2 on corrosion of Q235 carbon steel by sulfate reducing bacteria. Corrosion Science, 10.1016/j.corsci.2022.110220.

WU Jiajia

Institute of Oceanology


(Editor: ZHANG Yiyi)

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