Manganese (Mn) oxides are among the strongest oxidants and sorbents in the environment, impacting the transport and speciation of metals, cycling of carbon, and flow of electrons within soils and sediments. The oxidation of Mn(II) to Mn(III/IV) oxides has been primarily attributed to biological processes, due in part to the faster rates of bacterial Mn(II) oxidation compared to observed mineral-induced and other abiotic rates. Here we explore the reactivity of biogenic Mn oxides formed by a common marine bacterium (Roseobacter sp. AzwK-3b), which has been previously shown to oxidize Mn(II) via the production of extracellular superoxide. Oxidation of Mn(II) by superoxide results in the formation of highly reactive colloidal birnessite with hexagonal symmetry. The colloidal oxides induce the rapid oxidation of Mn(II), with dramatically accelerated rates in the presence of organics, presumably due to mineral surface-catalyzed organic radical generation. Mn(II) oxidation by the colloids is further accelerated in presence of both organics and light, implicating reactive oxygen species in aiding abiotic oxidation. Indeed, the enhancement of Mn(II) oxidation is negated when the colloids are reacted with Mn(II) in the presence of superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that scavenges the reactive oxygen species (ROS) superoxide. The reactivity of the colloidal phase is short-lived due to the rapid evolution of the birnessite from hexagonal to pseudo-orthogonal symmetry. The secondary particulate triclinic birnessite phase exhibits a distinct lack of Mn(II) oxidation and subsequent Mn oxide formation. Thus, the evolution of initial reactive hexagonal birnessite to non-reactive triclinic birnessite imposes the need for continuous production of new colloidal hexagonal particles for Mn(II) oxidation to be sustained, illustrating an intimate dependency of enzymatic and mineral-based reactions in Mn(II) oxidation. Further, the coupled enzymatic and mineral-induced pathways are linked such that enzymatic formation of Mn oxide is requisite for the mineral-induced pathway to occur. Here, we show that Mn(II) oxidation involves a complex network of abiotic and biotic processes, including enzymatically produced superoxide, mineral catalysis, organic reactions with mineral surfaces, and likely photo-production of ROS. The complexity of coupled reactions involved in Mn(II) oxidation here highlights the need for further investigations of microbially-mediated Mn oxide formation, including identifying the role of Mn oxide surfaces, organics, reactive oxygen species, and light in Mn(II) oxidation and Mn oxide phase evolution.
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