Indexed on: 07 Feb '01Published on: 07 Feb '01Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology
Three kinds of alkaliphilic bacteria able to utilize thiocyanate (CNS-) at pH 10 were found in highly alkaline soda lake sediments and soda soils. The first group included obligate heterotrophs that utilized thiocyanate as a nitrogen source while growing at pH 10 with acetate as carbon and energy sources. Most of the heterotrophic strains were able to oxidize sulfide and thiosulfate to tetrathionate. The second group included obligately autotrophic sulfur-oxidizing alkaliphiles which utilized thiocyanate nitrogen during growth with thiosulfate as the energy source. Genetic analysis demonstrated that both the heterotrophic and autotrophic alkaliphiles that utilized thiocyanate as a nitrogen source were related to the previously described sulfur-oxidizing alkaliphiles belonging to the gamma subdivision of the division Proteobacteria (the Halomonas group for the heterotrophs and the genus Thioalkalivibrio for autotrophs). The third group included obligately autotrophic sulfur-oxidizing alkaliphilic bacteria able to utilize thiocyanate as a sole source of energy. These bacteria could be enriched on mineral medium with thiocyanate at pH 10. Growth with thiocyanate was usually much slower than growth with thiosulfate, although the biomass yield on thiocyanate was higher. Of the four strains isolated, the three vibrio-shaped strains were genetically closely related to the previously described sulfur-oxidizing alkaliphiles belonging to the genus Thioalkalivibrio. The rod-shaped isolate differed from the other isolates by its ability to accumulate large amounts of elemental sulfur inside its cells and by its ability to oxidize carbon disulfide. Despite its low DNA homology with and substantial phenotypic differences from the vibrio-shaped strains, this isolate also belonged to the genus Thioalkalivibrio according to a phylogenetic analysis. The heterotrophic and autotrophic alkaliphiles that grew with thiocyanate as an N source possessed a relatively high level of cyanase activity which converted cyanate (CNO-) to ammonia and CO2. On the other hand, cyanase activity either was absent or was present at very low levels in the autotrophic strains grown on thiocyanate as the sole energy and N source. As a result, large amounts of cyanate were found to accumulate in the media during utilization of thiocyanate at pH 10 in batch and thiocyanate-limited continuous cultures. This is a first direct proof of a "cyanate pathway" in pure cultures of thiocyanate-degrading bacteria. Since it is relatively stable under alkaline conditions, cyanate is likely to play a role as an N buffer that keeps the alkaliphilic bacteria safe from inhibition by free ammonia, which otherwise would reach toxic levels during dissimilatory degradation of thiocyanate.
Indexed on: 05 Apr '02
Published on: 05 Apr '02 in International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology