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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 778, 2021, 146085

Microbial sulfur metabolism and environmental implications

Bo Wua, Feifei Liub, Wenwen Fanga, Tony Yangc, Guang-Hao Chend, Zhili Hea, Shanquan Wanga

Environmental Microbiomics Research Center, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution Control and Remediation Technology, Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510006, China.


Sulfur as a macroelement plays an important role in biochemistry in both natural environments and engineering biosystems, which can be further linked to other important element cycles, e.g. carbon, nitrogen and iron. Consequently, the sulfur cycling primarily mediated by sulfur compounds oxidizing microorganisms and sulfur compounds reducing microorganisms has enormous environmental implications, particularly in wastewater treatment and pollution bioremediation. In this review, to connect the knowledge in microbial sulfur metabolism to environmental applications, we first comprehensively review recent advances in understanding microbial sulfur metabolisms at molecular-, cellular- and ecosystem-levels, together with their energetics. We then discuss the environmental implications to fight against soil and water pollution, with four foci: (1) acid mine drainage, (2) water blackening and odorization in urban rivers, (3) SANI® and DS-EBPR processes for sewage treatment, and (4) bioremediation of persistent organic pollutants. In addition, major challenges and further developments toward elucidation of microbial sulfur metabolisms and their environmental applications are identified and discussed.

Keywords: Microbial sulfur metabolism, Sulfur compound oxidizing organisms, Sulfur compound reducing organisms, Acid mine drainage, Bioremediation, Wastewater treatment.

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