Original Papers

Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 144, Issue 1, pp 71-77

First online:

Chemolithotrophic metabolism of the newly-isolated moderately thermophilic, obligately autotrophic Thiobacillus tepidarius

  • Ann P. WoodAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences, University of Warwick
  • , Don P. KellyAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences, University of Warwick

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Thiobacillus tepidarius, isolated from the hot springs at Bath, Avon, UK, grew optimally at 43–45°C and pH 6.0–7.5 on thiosulphate or tetrathionate. In batch culture, thiosulphate was oxidized stoichiometrically to tetrathionate, with a rise in pH. The tetrathionate was then oxidized to sulphate, supporting growth and producing a fall in pH to a minimum of ph 4.8. The organism contained high levels of thiosulphate-oxidizing enzyme, rhodanese and ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase. It was obligately chemolithotrophic and autotrophic. In chemostat culture, T. tepidarius grew autotrophically with the following sole energy-substrates: sulphide, thiosulphate, trithionate, tetrathionate, hexathionate or heptathionate. Thiocyanate, dithionate and sulphite were not used as sole substrates, although sulphite enhanced growth yields in the presence of thiosulphate. Maximum specific growth rate on tetrathionate was 0.44 h-1. ‘True growth yields’ (Y max) and maintenance coefficients (m) were calculated for sulphide, thiosulphate, trithionate and tetrathionate and observed yields at a single fixed dilution rate compared with those on hexathionate and heptathionate. Mean values for Y max, determined from measurements of absorbance, dry wt, total organic carbon and cell protein, were similar for sulphide, thiosulphate and trithionate (10.9 g dry wt/mol substrate) as expected from their equivalent oxygen consumption for oxidation. Y max for tetrathionate (20.5) and the relative Y o values (as g dry wt/g atom oxygen consumed) for thiosulphate and all four polythionates indicated that substrate level phosphorylation did not contribute significantly to energy conservation. These Y max values were 40–70% higher than any of those previously reported for obligately aerobic thiobacilli. Mean values for m were 6.7 mmol substrate oxidized/g dry wt·h for sulphide, thiosulphate and trithionate, and 2.6 for tetrathionate.

Key words

Thiobacillus tepidarius Thermophilic chemolithoautotroph Chemostat Growth yields Chemolithotrophy Polythionate oxidation