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Microbiology. 2003 Jul;149(Pt 7):1699-710.

The sulfane sulfur of persulfides is the actual substrate of the sulfur-oxidizing enzymes from Acidithiobacillus and Acidiphilium spp.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Institute for General Botany, University of Hamburg, Ohnhorststr 18, D-22609 Hamburg, Germany.


To identify the actual substrate of the glutathione-dependent sulfur dioxygenase (EC elemental sulfur oxidation of the meso-acidophilic Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans strains DSM 504 and K6, Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans strain R1 and Acidiphilium acidophilum DSM 700 was analysed. Extraordinarily high specific sulfur dioxygenase activities up to 460 nmol x min(-1) (mg protein)(-1) were found in crude extracts. All cell-free systems oxidized elemental sulfur only via glutathione persulfide (GSSH), a non-enzymic reaction product from glutathione (GSH) and elemental sulfur. Thus, GSH plays a catalytic role in elemental sulfur activation, but is not consumed during enzymic sulfane sulfur oxidation. Sulfite is the first product of sulfur dioxygenase activity; it further reacted non-enzymically to sulfate, thiosulfate or glutathione S-sulfonate (GSSO(-3)). Free sulfide was not oxidized by the sulfur dioxygenase. Persulfide as sulfur donor could not be replaced by other sulfane-sulfur-containing compounds (thiosulfate, polythionates, bisorganyl-polysulfanes or monoarylthiosulfonates). The oxidation of H(2)S by the dioxygenase required GSSG, i.e. the disulfide of GSH, which reacted non-enzymically with sulfide to give GSSH prior to enzymic oxidation. On the basis of these results and previous findings a biochemical model for elemental sulfur and sulfide oxidation in Acidithiobacillus and Acidiphilium spp. is proposed.

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