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Ecophysiological evidence that Achromatium oxaliferum is responsible for the oxidation of reduced sulfur species to sulfate in a freshwater sediment

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Neil GrayORCiD, Professor Ian Head


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Achromatium oxaliferum is a large, morphologically conspicuous, sediment-dwelling bacterium. The organism has yet to be cultured in the laboratory, and very little is known about its physiology. The presence of intracellular inclusions of calcite and sulfur have given rise to speculation that the bacterium is involved in the carbon and sulfur cycles in the sediments where it is found. Depth profiles of oxygen concentration and A. oxaliferum cell numbers in a freshwater sediment revealed that the A. oxaliferum population spanned the oxic-anoxic boundary in the top 3 to 4 cm of sediments. Some of the A. oxaliferum cells resided at depths where no oxygen was detectable, suggesting that these cells may be capable of anaerobic metabolism. The distributions of solid-phase and dissolved inorganic sulfur species in the sediment revealed that A. oxaliferum was most abundant where sulfur cycling was must intense. The sediment was characterized by low concentrations of free sulfide. However, a comparison of sulfate reduction rates in sediment cores incubated with either oxic or anoxic overlying water indicated that the oxidative and reductive components of the sulfur cycle were tightly coupled in the A. oxaliferum-bearing sediment. A positive correlation between pore water sulfate concentration and A. oxaliferum numbers was observed in field data collected over an 18-month period, suggesting a possible link between A. oxaliferum numbers and the oxidation of reduced sulfur species to sulfate. The field data were supported by laboratory incubation experiments in which sodium molybdate-treated sediment cores were augmented with highly purified suspensions of A. oxaliferum cells. Under oxic conditions, rates of sulfate production in the presence of sodium molybdate were found to correlate strongly with the number of cells added to sediment cores, providing further evidence for a role for A. oxaliferum in the oxidation of reduced sulfur.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gray ND, Pickup RW, Jones JG, Head IM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Year: 1997

Volume: 63

Issue: 5

Pages: 1905-1910

Print publication date: 01/05/1997

ISSN (print): 0099-2240

ISSN (electronic): 1098-5336

Publisher: American Society for Microbiology