The marine sulfate reducerDesulfobacterium autotrophicumHRM2 can switch between low and high apparent half-saturation constants for dissimilatory sulfate reduction
Studies of the kinetics of dissimilatory sulfate reduction in marine sediment have shown that a mixture of marine sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) can reduce sulfate with both a high and low apparent sulfate half-saturation constant (Km). However, all marine pure cultures investigated have shown only low-sulfate affinity sulfate reduction kinetics. It remains unknown whether marine high sulfate-affinity sulfate reduction is catalyzed by unknown SRB or whether known SRB possess unrecognized high-affinity sulfate reduction systems. We used 35S-sulfate incubation experiments to show that cultures of Desulfobacterium autotrophicum HMR2 will switch from low-affinity to high-affinity sulfate reduction when sulfate concentrations fall below 500 μM. The mean Km was 150 μM at high sulfate concentrations and 8 μM at low sulfate concentrations. The high-affinity Km value is comparable to values found in SRB inhabiting freshwater sediments and D. autotrophicum cultures could deplete sulfate to below our detection limit of 25 nM. The switch in Km value was accompanied by a change in the expression of genes encoding membrane-bound transport proteins putatively involved in sulfate uptake in D. autotrophicum. Our results demonstrate that a marine sulfate reducer can efficiently reduce sulfate at both high and low sulfate concentrations, possibly by activation of different sulfate transporters in the membrane.