Biochemistry, physiology and biotechnology of sulfate-reducing bacteria

Adv Appl Microbiol. 2009;68:41-98. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2164(09)01202-7.


Chemolithotrophic bacteria that use sulfate as terminal electron acceptor (sulfate-reducing bacteria) constitute a unique physiological group of microorganisms that couple anaerobic electron transport to ATP synthesis. These bacteria (220 species of 60 genera) can use a large variety of compounds as electron donors and to mediate electron flow they have a vast array of proteins with redox active metal groups. This chapter deals with the distribution in the environment and the major physiological and metabolic characteristics of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). This chapter presents our current knowledge of soluble electron transfer proteins and transmembrane redox complexes that are playing an essential role in the dissimilatory sulfate reduction pathway of SRB of the genus Desulfovibrio. Environmentally important activities displayed by SRB are a consequence of the unique electron transport components or the production of high levels of H(2)S. The capability of SRB to utilize hydrocarbons in pure cultures and consortia has resulted in using these bacteria for bioremediation of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) compounds in contaminated soils. Specific strains of SRB are capable of reducing 3-chlorobenzoate, chloroethenes, or nitroaromatic compounds and this has resulted in proposals to use SRB for bioremediation of environments containing trinitrotoluene and polychloroethenes. Since SRB have displayed dissimilatory reduction of U(VI) and Cr(VI), several biotechnology procedures have been proposed for using SRB in bioremediation of toxic metals. Additional non-specific metal reductase activity has resulted in using SRB for recovery of precious metals (e.g. platinum, palladium and gold) from waste streams. Since bacterially produced sulfide contributes to the souring of oil fields, corrosion of concrete, and discoloration of stonework is a serious problem, there is considerable interest in controlling the sulfidogenic activity of the SRB. The production of biosulfide by SRB has led to immobilization of toxic metals and reduction of textile dyes, although the process remains unresolved, SRB play a role in anaerobic methane oxidation which not only contributes to carbon cycle activities but also depletes an important industrial energy reserve.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Desulfovibrio* / genetics
  • Desulfovibrio* / metabolism
  • Desulfovibrio* / physiology
  • Electron Transport
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Sulfates / metabolism
  • Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria* / genetics
  • Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria* / metabolism
  • Sulfur-Reducing Bacteria* / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Sulfates