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Res Microbiol. 2009 Dec;160(10):767-74. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2009.08.022. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Oxidation of elemental sulfur, tetrathionate and ferrous iron by the psychrotolerant Acidithiobacillus strain SS3.

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Institute of Geotechnics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Watsonova 45, SK-043 53 Kosice, Slovakia.


Mesophilic iron and sulfur-oxidizing acidophiles are readily found in acid mine drainage sites and bioleaching operations, but relatively little is known about their activities at suboptimal temperatures and in cold environments. The purpose of this work was to characterize the oxidation of elemental sulfur (S(0)), tetrathionate (S4O6(2-)) and ferrous iron (Fe2+) by the psychrotolerant Acidithiobacillus strain SS3. The rates of elemental sulfur and tetrathionate oxidation had temperature optima of 20 degrees and 25 degrees C, respectively, determined using a temperature gradient incubator that involved narrow (1.1 degrees C) incremental increases from 5 degrees to 30 degrees C. Activation energies calculated from the Arrhenius plots were 61 and 89 kJ mol(-1) for tetrathionate and 110 kJ mol(-1) for S(0) oxidation. The oxidation of elemental sulfur produced sulfuric acid at 5 degrees C and decreased the pH to approximately 1. The low pH inhibited further oxidation of the substrate. In media with both S(0) and Fe2+, oxidation of elemental sulfur did not commence until all available ferrous iron was oxidized. These data on sequential oxidation of the two substrates are in keeping with upregulation and downregulation of several proteins previously noted in the literature. Ferric iron was reduced to Fe2+ in parallel with elemental sulfur oxidation, indicating the presence of a sulfur:ferric iron reductase system in this bacterium.

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