The microbial oxidation of sulfide is a key reaction of the microbial sulfur cycle, recycling sulfur in its most reduced valence state back to more oxidized forms usable as electron acceptors. Under anoxic conditions, nitrate is a preferential electron acceptor for this process. Two enzymatic pathways have been proposed for sulfide oxidation under nitrate reducing conditions, the sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase (SQR) pathway and the Sox (sulfur oxidation) system. In experiments with the model strains Thiobacillus denitrificans and Sulfurimonas denitrificans, both pathways resulted in a similar small sulfur and oxygen isotope fractionation of -2.4 to -3.6‰ for (34)S and -2.4 to -3.4‰ for (18)O. A similar pattern was detected during the oxidation of sulfide in a column percolated with sulfidic, nitrate amended groundwater. In experiments with (18)O-labeled water, a strong oxygen isotope fractionation was observed for T. denitrificans and S. denitrificans, indicating a preferential incorporation of (18)O-depleted oxygen released as water by nitrate reduction to nitrogen. The study indicates that nitrate-dependent sulfide oxidation might be monitored in the environment by analysis of (18)O-depleted sulfate.
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