Oxidation of dimethylsulfide to tetrathionate by Methylophaga thiooxidams: a new link in the sulphur cycle

Rich Boden, Donovan P. Kelly, J. Colin Murrell, Hendrik Schaefer

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69 Citations (Scopus)


A new pathway of dimethylsulfide (DMS) metabolism was identified in a novel species of Gammaproteobacteria, Methylophaga thiooxidans sp. nov., in which tetrathionate (S4O62−) was the end-product of DMS oxidation. Inhibitor evidence indicated that DMS degradation was initiated by demethylation, catalysed by a corrinoid demethylase. Thiosulfate was an intermediate, which was oxidized to tetrathionate by a cytochrome-linked thiosulfate dehydrogenase. Thiosulfate oxidation was coupled to ATP synthesis, and M. thiooxidans could also use exogenous thiosulfate as an energy source during chemolithoheterotrophic growth on DMS or methanol. Cultures grown on a variety of substrates oxidized thiosulfate, indicating that thiosulfate oxidation was constitutive. The observations have relevance to interactions among sulfur-metabolizing bacteria in the marine environment. The production of tetrathionate from an organosulfur precursor is previously undocumented and represents a potential step in the biogeochemical sulfur cycle, providing a ‘shunt’ across the cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2688-2699
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

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