Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 117–125 | Cite as

Thiobacillus strain Q, a chemolithoheterotrophic sulphur bacterium

  • P. J. F. Gommers
  • J. G. Kuenen
Original Papers


The physiological properties of an organism isolated from a selective chemostat enrichment using acetate and thiosulphate as the limiting substrates, provisionally called Thiobacillus Q, were investigated. Although the organism made up 85% of the community in the enrichment culture, its expected chemolithotrophic nature was not apparent in batch experiments. The growth yield was not enhanced by the addition of thiosulphate to an acetate containing mineral medium, even though up to 50% of the thiosulphate was oxidized. Under acetate limitation in the chemostat, there was a linear increase in yield with thiosulphate addition up to a concentration of 7 mM. Higher thiosulphate concentrations resulted in loss of thiosulphate oxidizing capacity and a decrease in the biomass to the level obtained with acetate alone. This loss may be due to the presence of inhibitory (50–100 μM) levels of sulphite which is probably produced as an intermediate of the biological thiosulphate oxidation. Experiments with sulphide showed that Thiobacillus Q could also use it as an additional energy source. The complete lack of autotrophic growth, both in batch and chemostat experiments, together with the absence of even very low amounts of the key enzymes of the Calvin cycle demonstrated that this organism is a typical chemolithoheterotroph. Although this organism has provisionally been placed in the genus Thiobacillus, standard taxonomic procedures showed a close relationship with Pseudomonas alcaligenes. This study stresses the importance of quantitative chemostat studies in establishing the role of inorganic oxidations in energy metabolism and in the understanding of the role of heterotrophic sulphur oxidation in natural environments.

Key words

Sulphur bacterium Sulphide/thiosulphate oxidation Chemolithotroph Mixed substrate Sulphite inhibition Non-autotrophic/heterotroph Thiobacillus 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. F. Gommers
    • 1
  • J. G. Kuenen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and EnzymologyDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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