Microbial Sulfur Metabolism


Sulfur is one of the most abundant elements on Earth. It is mainly present as pyrite or gypsum in rocks and sediments or as sulfate in seawater. The sulfur cycle is complex, because of the different oxidation states and because sulfur can be transformed both chemically and biologically.

The sulfur cycle plays an important role in the biosphere. Sulfur is present in the amino acids cysteine and methionine and in cofactors, such as biotin and coenzyme A. In addition, microorganisms may use sulfur in their energy metabolism. Some anaerobic bacteria and archaea can use sulfate as a terminal electron acceptor for the oxidation of organic substrates, while other bacteria can use the reduced sulfur compounds as electron donor for aerobic respiration or anaerobic respiration with nitrate. Chemolithoautototrophic bacteria are highly specialized in sulfur biotransformation, but a large variety of heterotrophic bacteria is also able to oxidize inorganic sulfur compounds. Some phototrophic bacteria use sulfur compounds as electron donor in the reduction of carbon dioxide to biomass.

The environments in which sulfur bacteria thrive are diverse. Besides in soil, sediments and surface water, sulfur bacteria can be found in environments with a low or high pH and/or temperature. In addition, they can be found in the deep biosphere.

Sulfur conversions are also important in biotechnology. Sulfate reduction may be used to precipitate heavy metals as metal sulfides, while sulfate reduction coupled to partial oxidation of sulfide to elemental sulfur can be used to recover sulfur from wastewater and off gasses. Apart from beneficial applications, sulfate reduction is associated with anaerobic corrosion, which causes large problems in industrial processes.

The EMBO Workshop on Microbial Sulfur Metabolism treats the current state-of-the-art of different aspects of the microbial sulfur cycle, including:

• Sulfur bacteria and their niches
• Physiology, biochemistry and genomics of sulfur bacteria
• Geochemistry and evolution
• Novel sulfur biotransformations
• Microbial interactions and symbiosis
• Biotechnology of sulfur bacteria

+ show speakers and program

James Farquhar - University of Maryland, USA
'The evolution and future of the Earth's sulfur cycle'

Gerrit Voordouw - University of Calgary, Canada
'Fundamental and applied aspects of the sulfur cycle: From Desulfovibrio to oil field'


Donald Bryant - Penn State University, USA
'Genomic analyses of sulfur bacteria'

Christiane Dahl - University of Bonn, Germany
'Genomic, proteomic and transcriptomic insights into oxidative sulfur metabolism in the purple sulfur bacterium Allochromatium vinosum'

Mark Dopson - Linnaeus University, Sweden
'Towards green mining: exploiting psychrotolerant acidophiles in bioremediation of inorganic sulfur compounds'

Nicole Dubilier - MPI for Marine Microbiology, Germany
'Metagenomics and metaproteomics of chemoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing symbionts'

Timothy Ferdelman - MPI for Marine Microbiology, Germany
'Biogeochemistry of sulfur'

Alexander Loy - University of Vienna, Austria
'Novel insights in the ecology and evolution of sulphate reducing microorganisms'

Jörg Overmann - DSMZ-Braunschweig, Germany
'Sulfur bacteria and their niches'

Hendrik Schäfer - University of Warwick, United Kingdom
'Functional diversity of (volatile) organosulfur compound degrading microorganisms in terrestrial and marine environments'

Dimitri Sorokin - Winogradsky Institute / Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
'Dissimilatory thiocyanate utilization in (halo)alkaliphilic SOB'

David Stahl - University of Washington, USA
'Adaptive Evolution of a Desulfovibrio-Methanogen mutualism'

15 Apr - 18 Apr 2012

meeting website