Tetrathionate (S4 O6 (2-) ) is used by some bacteria as an electron acceptor and can be produced in the vertebrate intestinal mucosa from the oxidation of thiosulphate (S2 O3 (2-) ) by reactive oxygen species during inflammation. Surprisingly, growth of the microaerophilic mucosal pathogen Campylobacter jejuni under oxygen-limited conditions was stimulated by tetrathionate, although it does not possess any known type of tetrathionate reductase. Here, we identify a dihaem cytochrome c (C8j_0815; TsdA) as the enzyme responsible. Kinetic studies with purified recombinant C. jejuni TsdA showed it to be a bifunctional tetrathionate reductase/thiosulphate dehydrogenase with a high affinity for tetrathionate. A tsdA null mutant still slowly reduced, but could not grow on, tetrathionate under oxygen limitation, lacked thiosulphate-dependent respiration and failed to convert thiosulphate to tetrathionate microaerobically. A TsdA paralogue (C8j_0040), lacking the unusual His-Cys haem ligation of TsdA, had low thiosulphate dehydrogenase and tetrathionate reductase activities. Our data highlight a hitherto unrecognized capacity of C. jejuni to use tetrathionate and thiosulphate in its energy metabolism, which may promote growth in the host. Moreover, as TsdA represents a new class of tetrathionate reductase that is widely distributed among bacteria, we predict that energy conserving tetrathionate respiration is far more common than currently appreciated.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.