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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Physiology and genetics of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria.

Reduced inorganic sulfur compounds are oxidized by members of the domains Archaea and Bacteria. These compounds are used as electron donors for anaerobic phototrophic and aerobic chemotrophic growth, and are mostly oxidized to sulfate. Different enzymes mediate the conversion of various reduced sulfur compounds. Their physiological function in sulfur oxidation is considered (i) mostly from the biochemical characterization of the enzymatic reaction, (ii) rarely from the regulation of their formation, and (iii) only in a few cases from the mutational gene inactivation and characterization of the resulting mutant phenotype. In this review the sulfur-metabolizing reactions of selected phototrophic and of chemotrophic prokaryotes are discussed. These comprise an archaeon, a cyanobacterium, green sulfur bacteria, and selected phototrophic and chemotrophic proteobacteria. The genetic systems are summarized which are presently available for these organisms, and which can be used to study the molecular basis of their dissimilatory sulfur metabolism. Two groups of thiobacteria can be distinguished: those able to grow with tetrathionate and other reduced sulfur compounds, and those unable to do so. This distinction can be made irrespective of their phototrophic or chemotrophic metabolism, neutrophilic or acidophilic nature, and may indicate a mechanism different from that of thiosulfate oxidation. However, the core enzyme for tetrathionate oxidation has not been identified so far. Several phototrophic bacteria utilize hydrogen sulfide, which is considered to be oxidized by flavocytochrome c owing to its in vitro activity. However, the function of flavocytochrome c in vivo may be different, because it is missing in other hydrogen sulfide-oxidizing bacteria, but is present in most thiosulfate-oxidizing bacteria. A possible function of flavocytochrome c is discussed based on biophysical studies, and the identification of a flavocytochrome in the operon encoding enzymes involved in thiosulfate oxidation of Paracoccus denitrificans. Adenosine-5'-phosphosulfate reductase thought to function in the 'reverse' direction in different phototrophic and chemotrophic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria was analysed in Chromatium vinosum. Inactivation of the corresponding gene does not affect the sulfite-oxidizing ability of the mutant. This result questions the concept of its 'reverse' function, generally accepted for over three decades.[1]


  1. Physiology and genetics of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Friedrich, C.G. Adv. Microb. Physiol. (1998) [Pubmed]
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