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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2000 Apr;24(2):135-75.

Riding the sulfur cycle--metabolism of sulfonates and sulfate esters in gram-negative bacteria.

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Institute of Microbiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zentrum, CH-8092, Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Sulfonates and sulfate esters are widespread in nature, and make up over 95% of the sulfur content of most aerobic soils. Many microorganisms can use sulfonates and sulfate esters as a source of sulfur for growth, even when they are unable to metabolize the carbon skeleton of the compounds. In these organisms, expression of sulfatases and sulfonatases is repressed in the presence of sulfate, in a process mediated by the LysR-type regulator protein CysB, and the corresponding genes therefore constitute an extension of the cys regulon. Additional regulator proteins required for sulfonate desulfonation have been identified in Escherichia coli (the Cbl protein) and Pseudomonas putida (the AsfR protein). Desulfonation of aromatic and aliphatic sulfonates as sulfur sources by aerobic bacteria is oxygen-dependent, carried out by the alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent taurine dioxygenase, or by one of several FMNH(2)-dependent monooxygenases. Desulfurization of condensed thiophenes is also FMNH(2)-dependent, both in the rhodococci and in two Gram-negative species. Bacterial utilization of aromatic sulfate esters is catalyzed by arylsulfatases, most of which are related to human lysosomal sulfatases and contain an active-site formylglycine group that is generated post-translationally. Sulfate-regulated alkylsulfatases, by contrast, are less well characterized. Our increasing knowledge of the sulfur-regulated metabolism of organosulfur compounds suggests applications in practical fields such as biodesulfurization, bioremediation, and optimization of crop sulfur nutrition.

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