Pyrococcus furiosus is an anaerobic archaeon that grows optimally at 100 degrees C by the fermentation of carbohydrates yielding acetate, CO2, and H2 as the primary products. If elemental sulfur (S0) or polysulfide is added to the growth medium, H2S is also produced. The cytoplasmic hydrogenase of P. furiosus, which is responsible for H2 production with ferredoxin as the electron donor, has been shown to also catalyze the reduction of polysulfide to H2S (K. Ma, R. N. Schicho, R. M. Kelly, and M. W. W. Adams, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90:5341-5344, 1993). From the cytoplasm of this organism, we have now purified an enzyme, sulfide dehydrogenase (SuDH), which catalyzes the reduction of polysulfide to H2S with NADPH as the electron donor. SuDH is a heterodimer with subunits of 52,000 and 29,000 Da. SuDH contains flavin and approximately 11 iron and 6 acid-labile sulfide atoms per mol, but no other metals were detected. Analysis of the enzyme by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy indicated the presence of four iron-sulfur centers, one of which was specifically reduced by NADPH. SuDH has a half-life at 95 degrees C of about 12 h and shows a 50% increase in activity after 12 h at 82 degrees C. The pure enzyme has a specific activity of 7 mumol of H2S produced.min-1.mg of protein-1 at 80 degrees C with polysulfide (1.2 mM) and NADPH (0.4 mM) as substrates. The apparent Km values were 1.25 mM and 11 microM, respectively. NADH was not utilized as an electron donor for polysulfide reduction. P. furiosus rubredoxin (K(m) = 1.6 microM) also functioned as an electron acceptor for SuDH, and SuDH catalyzed the reduction of NADP with reduced P. furiosus ferredoxin (K(m) = 0.7 microM) as an electron donor. The multiple activities of SuDH and its proposed role in the metabolism of S(o) and polysulfide are discussed.