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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 17:255-265 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/ame017255

Tetrathionate production by sulfur oxidizing bacteria and the role of tetrathionate in the sulfur cycle of Baltic Sea sediments

Lilijana Podgorsek, Johannes F. Imhoff*

Institut für Meereskunde, Abteilung Marine Mikrobiologie, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The role of tetrathionate in the sulfur cycle of Baltic Sea sediments was investigated in different habitats and under a variety of environmental conditions. Sediment profiles were recorded with regard to numbers of thiosulfate oxidizing bacteria, concentrations of sulfur compounds, and potential rates of thiosulfate oxidation. Products of thiosulfate oxidation were quantified in incubated sediment samples and in pure cultures. Evidence was found that tetrathionate is formed within these sediments, that sulfur oxidizing bacteria are present in considerable numbers, that these bacteria are of major importance in the oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds in their habitat, and that tetrathionate is an important oxidation product of these bacteria. Thiosulfate is oxidized by bacteria isolated from these sediments to varying proportions of tetrathionate, sulfate, and also elemental sulfur. In highly sulfidic sediments and in the presence of large amounts of organic matter, tetrathionate was present in sediment horizons in which thiosulfate and elemental sulfur also accumulated. A tetrathionate cycle is proposed to be active in natural marine and brackish water sediments in which, due to combined bacterial action and chemical reactions, a net oxidation of sulfide to elemental sulfur occurs in the presence of catalytic amounts of thiosulfate and tetrathionate.

KEY WORDS: Tetrathionate · Thiosulfate · Sulfur oxidation · Sulfur oxidizing bacteria · Tetrathionate cycle · Baltic Sea

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