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Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 191-197
Research Article

Minimal sulfur requirement for growth and sulfur-dependent metabolism of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Staphylothermus marinus

Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada

Received 14 April 2003; Accepted 13 August 2003

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Staphylothermus marinus is an anaerobic hyperthermophilic archaeon that uses peptides as carbon and energy sources. Elemental sulfur (S°) is obligately required for its growth and is reduced to H2S. The metabolic functions and mechanisms of S° reduction were explored by examining S°-dependent growth and activities of key enzymes present in this organism. All three forms of S° tested—sublimed S°, colloidal S° and polysulfide—were used by S. marinus, and no other sulfur-containing compounds could replace S°. Elemental sulfur did not serve as physical support but appeared to function as an electron acceptor. The minimal S° concentration required for optimal growth was 0.05% (w/v). At this concentration, there appeared to be a metabolic transition from H2 production to S° reduction. Some enzymatic activities related to S°-dependent metabolism, including sulfur reductase, hydrogenase, glutamate dehydrogenase and electron transfer activities, were detected in cell-free extracts of S. marinus. These results indicate that S° plays an essential role in the heterotrophic metabolism of S. marinus. Reducing equivalents generated by the oxidation of amino acids from peptidolysis may be transferred to sulfur reductase and hydrogenase, which then catalyze the production of H2S and H2, respectively.