Quantum theft: extracellular electron transfer in cyanobacteria

Name of applicant

Leonid Digel


Postdoctoral Fellow


The University of Cambridge


DKK 1,120,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


All microorganisms generate energy with the help of electric currents running in their cell membrane. Oftentimes, electrons originate from organic matter, which microbes consume. Cyanobacteria produce such electric current taking electrons from water and energy from the Sun. I will investigate whether other microorganisms can 'steal' electrons from cyanobacteria and use them for their own growth.


Cyanobacteria make up a significant portion of microbial biomass on Earth, but our knowledge of their role in the environment is still incomplete. Studying electron transfer between cyanobacteria and other microorganisms will help us understand their ecological and geochemical impact on global nutrient cycles. This knowledge will also build foundation for future microbial synthesis technologies.


I will create microbial co-cultures, which will mimic natural microbial communities. In these co-cultures cyanobacteria will sustain the growth of other bacteria by directly providing them with electrons instead of organic matter. Using structural biology tools, I will determine molecular mechanisms behind these interactions.

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