Hydrogen Sulfide: A Toxic Gas Produced by Dissimilatory Sulfate and Sulfur Reduction and Consumed by Microbial Oxidation

  • Larry L. Barton
  • Marie-Laure Fardeau
  • Guy D. FauqueEmail author
Part of the Metal Ions in Life Sciences book series (MILS, volume 14)


Sulfur is an essential element for the synthesis of cysteine, methionine, and other organo-sulfur compounds needed by living organisms. Additionally, some prokaryotes are capable of exploiting oxidation or reduction of inorganic sulfur compounds to energize cellular growth. Several anaerobic genera of Bacteria and Archaea produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S), as a result of using sulfate (SO 4 2 − ), elemental sulfur (S0), thiosulfate (S2O 3 2 − ), and tetrathionate (S4O 6 2 − ) as terminal electron acceptors. Some phototrophic and aerobic sulfur bacteria are capable of using electrons from oxidation of sulfide to support chemolithotrophic growth. For the most part, biosulfur reduction or oxidation requires unique enzymatic activities with metal cofactors participating in electron transfer. This review provides an examination of cytochromes, iron-sulfur proteins, and sirohemes participating in electron movement in diverse groups of sulfate-reducing, sulfur-reducing, and sulfide-oxidizing Bacteria and Archaea.


hydrogen sulfide production sulfate reduction sulfide oxidation sulfite reduction sulfur cycle 



Sequence data were produced by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute in collaboration with the user community.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larry L. Barton
    • 1
  • Marie-Laure Fardeau
    • 2
  • Guy D. Fauque
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Institut Méditerranéen d’Océanologie (MIO)Aix-Marseille Université, USTV, UMR CNRS 7294/IRD 235Marseille Cedex 09France

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