3 years ago

Electron carriers in microbial sulfate reduction inferred from experimental and environmental sulfur isotope fractionations

Boswell A Wing, Christine B Wenk, Itay Halevy

Dissimilatory sulfate reduction (DSR) has been a key process influencing the global carbon cycle, atmospheric composition and climate for much of Earth’s history, yet the energy metabolism of sulfate-reducing microbes remains poorly understood. Many organisms, particularly sulfate reducers, live in low-energy environments and metabolize at very low rates, requiring specific physiological adaptations. We identify one such potential adaptation—the electron carriers selected for survival under energy-limited conditions. Employing a quantitative biochemical-isotopic model, we find that the large S isotope fractionations (>55‰) observed in a wide range of natural environments and culture experiments at low respiration rates are only possible when the standard-state Gibbs free energy (ΔG′°) of all steps during DSR is more positive than −10kJmol−1. This implies that at low respiration rates, only electron carriers with modestly negative reduction potentials are involved, such as menaquinone, rubredoxin, rubrerythrin or some flavodoxins. Furthermore, the constraints from S isotope fractionation imply that ferredoxins with a strongly negative reduction potential cannot be the direct electron donor to S intermediates at low respiration rates. Although most sulfate reducers have the genetic potential to express a variety of electron carriers, our results suggest that a key physiological adaptation of sulfate reducers to low-energy environments is to use electron carriers with modestly negative reduction potentials.

Publisher URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/ismej2017185

DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2017.185

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