The sulfur-reducing bacterium Spirillum 5175 was investigated with regard to membrane constituents that might be part of the sulfur oxidoreductase which converts elemental sulfur to hydrogen sulfide. Regardless of the electron acceptor used for cultivation of the bacteria, i.e. elemental sulfur, fumarate, or nitrate (Sp. 5175S,F,N), the qualitative pattern of cytochromes and Fe-S proteins did not change significantly, as documented by ultraviolet/visible and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy of oxidized (as isolated) and reduced (dithionite) samples. With elemental sulfur the prominent cytochrome exhibited absorption maxima at 553, 522.5 and 426 nm in the reduced state. In fumarate-grown cells two prominent cytochromes were found with maxima at 561, 551, 530, 521 and 430 nm. Two b-type cytochromes with Em at -198 mV and -20 mV vs the standard hydrogen electrode were identified in the membrane fraction of Sp. 5175F. A yellow pigment was extracted and identified as a flexirubin-type pigment. Although present in large quantities, it seemed not to be involved in the reduction of elemental sulfur. Menaquinone, MK 6 (Mr 580) was the prominent quinone identified in Sp. 5175. Characterization of a second quinone was not attempted because of its much lower concentration. The membrane constituents of Sp. 5175 were solubilized by a variety of detergents and detergent mixtures. A colorimetric procedure with photochemically reduced phenosafranin as the electron donor and cysteamine trisulfide (RS-S-SR, R = -CH2CH2NH2) as the electron acceptor was used to detect sulfur oxidoreductase activity. Three membrane proteins of Sp. 5175 were purified: (1) an [NiFe] hydrogenase, homogeneous by SDS/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, with electron paramagnetic resonance signals as isolated at gx,y,z = 2.01, 2.16, 2.33 (100 K), and a strong signal at g = 2.02 below 20 K; (2) a cytochrome b, Fe-S-dependent fumarate reductase, and (3) a protein apparently linked to the sulfur oxidoreductase activity. In contrast to fumarate reductase, no b-type cytochrome was present in the fractions exhibiting sulfur oxidoreductase activity. The presence of Fe-S centers was demonstrated by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy at 10 K. It is not clear whether the c-type cytochrome in the same fractions is part of the sulfur-reducing apparatus of Sp. 5175.