Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 3–18 | Cite as

Iron oxide dissolution and solubility in the presence of siderophores

  • Stephan M. Kraemer
Review Article


Iron is an essential trace nutrient for most known organisms. The iron availability is limited by the solubility and the slow dissolution kinetics of iron-bearing mineral phases, particularly in pH neutral or alkaline environments such as carbonatic soils and ocean water. Bacteria, fungi, and plants have evolved iron acquisition systems to increase the bioavailability of iron in such environments. A particularly efficient iron acquisition system involves the solubilization of iron by siderophores. Siderophores are biogenic chelators with high affinity and specificity for iron complexation.

This review focuses on the geochemical aspects of biological iron acquisition. The significance of iron-bearing minerals as nutrient source for siderophore-promoted iron acquisition has been confirmed in microbial culture studies. Due to the extraordinary thermodynamic stability of soluble siderophore-iron complexes, siderophores have a pronounced effect on the solubility of iron oxides over a wide pH range. Very small concentrations of free siderophores in solution have a large effect on the solution saturation state of iron oxides. This siderophore induced disequilibrium can drive dissolution mechanisms such as proton-promoted or ligand-promoted iron oxide dissolution. The adsorption of siderophores to oxide surfaces also induces a direct siderophore-promoted surface-controlled dissolution mechanism. The efficiency of siderophores for increasing the solubility and dissolution kinetics of iron oxides are compared to other natural and anthropogenic ligands.

Key words.

Bioavailability dissolution kinetics iron acquisition marine chemistry plant nutrition surface complexation 


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Copyright information

© EAWAG 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Terrestrial EcologySchlierenSwitzerland

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