Dissimilatory sulphate reduction is the unifying and defining trait of sulphate-reducing prokaryotes (SRP). In their predominant habitats, sulphate-rich marine sediments, SRP have long been recognized to be major players in the carbon and sulphur cycles. Other, more recently appreciated, ecophysiological roles include activity in the deep biosphere, symbiotic relations, syntrophic associations, human microbiome/health and long-distance electron transfer. SRP include a high diversity of organisms, with large nutritional versatility and broad metabolic capacities, including anaerobic degradation of aromatic compounds and hydrocarbons. Elucidation of novel catabolic capacities as well as progress in the understanding of metabolic and regulatory networks, energy metabolism, evolutionary processes and adaptation to changing environmental conditions has greatly benefited from genomics, functional OMICS approaches and advances in genetic accessibility and biochemical studies. Important biotechnological roles of SRP range from (i) wastewater and off gas treatment, (ii) bioremediation of metals and hydrocarbons and (iii) bioelectrochemistry, to undesired impacts such as (iv) souring in oil reservoirs and other environments, and (v) corrosion of iron and concrete. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of SRPs focusing mainly on works published after 2000. The wealth of publications in this period, covering many diverse areas, is a testimony to the large environmental, biogeochemical and technological relevance of these organisms and how much the field has progressed in these years, although many important questions and applications remain to be explored.
Keywords: Anaerobic respiration; Ecophysiology; Electron transfer; Genetics; Genomics; Habitats; Hydrocarbon degradation; Marine sediments; Metal reduction; Microbial energy conversion; Microbially influenced corrosion; Microbiome; Souring; Sulphate reduction; Sulphate-reducing bacteria; Sulphate-reducing prokaryotes; Systems biology.
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