Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1369–1378 | Cite as

Sulfur metabolism by marine heterotrophic bacteria involved in sulfur cycling in the ocean

  • Xin Hu
  • Jihua LiuEmail author
  • Huaiwei Liu
  • Guangchao Zhuang
  • Luying Xun


Sulfur cycling in the biosphere is tightly interwoven with the cycling of carbon and nitrogen, through various biological and geochemical processes. Marine microorganisms, due to their high abundance, diverse metabolic activities, and tremendous adaptation potential, play an essential role in the functioning of global biogeochemical cycles and linking sulfur transformation to the cycling of carbon and nitrogen. Currently many coastal regions are severely stressed by hypoxic or anoxic conditions, leading to the accumulation of toxic sulfide. A number of recent studies have demonstrated that dissimilatory sulfur oxidation by heterotrophic bacteria can protect marine ecosystems from sulfide toxicity. Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria have evolved diverse phylogenetic and metabolic characteristics to fill an array of ecological niches in various marine habitats. Here, we review the recent findings on the microbial communities that are involved in the oxidation of inorganic sulfur compounds and address how the two elements of sulfur and carbon are interlinked and influence the ecology and biogeochemistry in the ocean. Delineating the metabolic enzymes and pathways of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria not only provides an insight into the microbial sulfur metabolism, but also helps us understand the effects of changing environmental conditions on marine sulfur cycling and reinforces the close connection between sulfur and carbon cycling in the ocean.


Sulfur cycling Sulfur oxidation Heterotrophic bacteria Metabolic pathway 


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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFA0601103), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41606134) and the Fundamental Research Funds of Shandong University as well.


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xin Hu
    • 1
  • Jihua Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Huaiwei Liu
    • 2
  • Guangchao Zhuang
    • 3
  • Luying Xun
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Marine Science and TechnologyShandong UniversityQingdaoChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Microbial TechnologyShandong UniversityQingdaoChina
  3. 3.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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