Sulfur metabolism in Escherichia coli and related bacteria: facts and fiction

J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000 Apr;2(2):145-77.


Living organisms are composed of macromolecules made of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Much work has been devoted to the metabolism of the first five elements, but much remains to be understood about sulfur metabolism. We review here the situation in Escherichia coli and related bacteria, where more than one hundred genes involved in sulfur metabolism have already been discovered in this organism. Examination of the genome suggests that many more will be found, especially genes involved in regulation, scavenging of sulfur containing molecules and synthesis of coenzymes or prosthetic groups. Furthermore, the involvement of methionine as the universal start of proteins as well as that of its derivative S-adenosylmethionine in a vast variety of cell processes argue in favour of a major importance of sulfur metabolism in all organisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / metabolism
  • Selenium / metabolism
  • Sulfonic Acids / metabolism
  • Sulfur / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Sulfonic Acids
  • Sulfur
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Methionine
  • Selenium
  • Cysteine