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Keywords:

  • Thiobacillus;
  • Oxygen limitation;
  • Sulfide oxidation;
  • Microbial mat;
  • Marine sediment;
  • Continous culture

Abstract The colorless sulfur bacterium Thiobacillus thioparus T5, isolated from a marine microbial mat, was grown in continuous culture under conditions ranging from sulfide limitation to oxygen limitation. Under sulfide-limiting conditions, sulfide was virtually completely oxidized to sulfate. Under oxygen-limiting conditions, sulfide was partially oxidized to zerovalent sulfur (75%) and thiosulfate (17%). In addition, low concentrations of tetrathionate and polysulfide were detected. The finding of in vivo thiosulfate formation supports the discredited observations of thiosulfate formation in cell free extracts in the early sixties. In a microbial mat most sulfide oxidation was shown to take place under oxygen-limiting conditions. It is suggested that zerovalent sulfur formation by thiobacilli is a major process resulting in polysulfide accumulation. Implications for the competition between colorless sulfur bacteria and purple sulfur bacteria are discussed.