The utilization of thiocyanate as a nitrogen source by a heterotrophic bacterium: the degradative pathway involves formation of ammonia and tetrathionate

Microbiology (Reading). 1994 Oct:140 ( Pt 10):2657-62. doi: 10.1099/00221287-140-10-2657.


A Gram-negative soil bacterium (isolate 26B) has been shown to utilize up to 100 mM thiocyanate as a source of nitrogen when supplied with glucose as the source of carbon and energy. During growth of isolate 26B with thiocyanate as the source of nitrogen, no ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, cyanide, cyanate, sulfate, sulfite, sulfide or carbonyl sulfide was detected in the growth medium. Growth of the bacterium on 14C-labelled thiocyanate (1.6 microCi) and glucose, yielded 14C-labelled carbon dioxide (0.9 microCi). The addition of 2.9 mM thiocyanate to a bacterial suspension in phosphate buffer (50 mM, pH 7.4) resulted in the utilization of 2.1 mM thiocyanate and the production of 2.0 mM ammonia. This activity was inducible and only occurred after growth of the bacterium with thiocyanate as the source of nitrogen. Tetrathionate (0.7 mM) was detected in the medium after the utilization of thiocyanate (2.4 mM) by a suspension of the bacterium in phosphate buffer, and thiosulfate (1.0 mM) was detected as an intermediate. The addition of sulfide or thiosulfate to the bacterial suspension also resulted in the formation of tetrathionate. The utilization of both of these compounds appeared to be constitutive. A pathway for thiocyanate utilization by isolate 26B is proposed which involves the hydrolysis of thiocyanate to produce cyanate and sulfide. The cyanate then undergoes further hydrolysis to form ammonia and carbon dioxide. The sulfide is ultimately oxidized to tetrathionate via a pathway which includes thiosulfate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Tetrathionic Acid / metabolism
  • Thiocyanates / metabolism*


  • Thiocyanates
  • Ammonia
  • Tetrathionic Acid
  • Nitrogen
  • thiocyanate