, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 131-139

First online:

Reduction of molybdate by sulfate-reducing bacteria

  • Keka C. BiswasAffiliated withDepartment of Science, Wesley College
  • , Nicole A. WoodardsAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Laboratory of Microbial Chemistry, University of New Mexico
  • , Huifang XuAffiliated withDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin
  • , Larry L. BartonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Laboratory of Microbial Chemistry, University of New Mexico Email author 

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Molybdate is an essential trace element required by biological systems including the anaerobic sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB); however, detrimental consequences may occur if molybdate is present in high concentrations in the environment. While molybdate is a structural analog of sulfate and inhibits sulfate respiration of SRB, little information is available concerning the effect of molybdate on pure cultures. We followed the growth of Desulfovibrio gigas ATCC 19364, Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans DSM 642, and D. desulfuricans DSM 27774 in media containing sub-lethal levels of molybdate and observed a red-brown color in the culture fluid. Spectral analysis of the culture fluid revealed absorption peaks at 467, 395 and 314 nm and this color is proposed to be a molybdate–sulfide complex. Reduction of molybdate with the formation of molybdate disulfide occurs in the periplasm D. gigas and D. desulfuricans DSM 642. From these results we suggest that the occurrence of poorly crystalline Mo-sulfides in black shale may be a result from SRB reduction and selective enrichment of Mo in paleo-seawater.


Molybdate Molybdenum disulfide Transition metals Dissimilatory metal reduction Sulfate-reducing bacteria