The phs chromosomal locus of Salmonella typhimurium is essential for the dissimilatory anaerobic reduction of thiosulfate to hydrogen sulfide. Sequence analysis of the phs region revealed a functional operon with three open reading frames, designated phsA, phsB, and phsC, which encode peptides of 82.7, 21.3, and 28.5 kDa, respectively. The predicted products of phsA and phsB exhibited significant homology with the catalytic and electron transfer subunits of several other anaerobic molybdoprotein oxidoreductases, including Escherichia coli dimethyl sulfoxide reductase, nitrate reductase, and formate dehydrogenase. Simultaneous comparison of PhsA to seven homologous molybdoproteins revealed numerous similarities among all eight throughout the entire frame, hence, significant amino acid conservation among molybdoprotein oxidoreductases. Comparison of PhsB to six other homologous sequences revealed four highly conserved iron-sulfur clusters. The predicted phsC product was highly hydrophobic and similar in size to the hydrophobic subunits of the molybdoprotein oxidoreductases containing subunits homologous to phsA and phsB. Thus, phsABC appears to encode thiosulfate reductase. Single-copy phs-lac translational fusions required both anaerobiosis and thiosulfate for full expression, whereas multicopy phs-lac translational fusions responded to either thiosulfate or anaerobiosis, suggesting that oxygen and thiosulfate control of phs involves negative regulation. A possible role for thiosulfate reduction in anaerobic respiration was examined. Thiosulfate did not significantly augment the final densities of anaerobic cultures grown on any of the 18 carbon sources tested. on the other hand, washed stationary-phase cells depleted of ATP were shown to synthesize small amounts of ATP on the addition of the formate and thiosulfate, suggesting that the thiosulfate reduction plays a unique role in anaerobic energy conservation by S typhimurium.
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