Biodiversity, metabolism and applications of acidophilic sulfur-metabolizing microorganisms


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Extremely acidic, sulfur-rich environments can be natural, such as solfatara fields in geothermal and volcanic areas, or anthropogenic, such as acid mine drainage waters. Many species of acidophilic bacteria and archaea are known to be involved in redox transformations of sulfur, using elemental sulfur and inorganic sulfur compounds as electron donors or acceptors in reactions involving between one and eight electrons. This minireview describes the nature and origins of acidic, sulfur-rich environments, the biodiversity of sulfur-metabolizing acidophiles, and how sulfur is metabolized and assimilated by acidophiles under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Finally, existing and developing technologies that harness the abilities of sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing acidophiles to extract and capture metals, and to remediate sulfur-polluted waste waters are outlined.