Sulphate respiration from hydrogen in Desulfovibrio bacteria: A structural biology overview

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Sulphate-reducing organisms are widespread in anaerobic enviroments, including the gastrointestinal tract of man and other animals. The study of these bacteria has attracted much attention over the years, due also to the fact that they can have important implications in industry (in biocorrosion and souring of oil and gas deposits), health (in inflamatory bowel diseases) and the environment (bioremediation). The characterization of the various components of the electron transport chain associated with the hydrogen metabolism in Desulfovibrio has generated a large and comprehensive list of studies. This review summarizes the more relevant aspects of the current information available on the structural data of various molecules associated with hydrogen metabolism, namely hydrogenases and cytochromes. The transmembrane redox complexes known to date are also described and discussed. Redox-Bohr and cooperativity effects, observed in a few cytochromes, and believed to be important for their functional role, are discussed. Kinetic studies performed with these redox proteins, showing clues to their functional inter-relationship, are also addressed. These provide the groundwork for the application of a variety of molecular modelling approaches to understanding electron transfer and protein interactions among redox partners, leading to the characterization of several transient periplasmic complexes. In contrast to the detailed understanding of the periplasmic hydrogen oxidation process, very little is known about the cytoplasmic side of the respiratory electron transfer chain, in terms of molecular components (with exception of the terminal reductases), their structure and the protein-protein interactions involved in sulphate reduction. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the sulphate respiratory chain in Desulfovibrio remains a challenging task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-329
Number of pages38
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2005


  • Desulfovibrio bacteria
  • Electron transfer
  • Hydrogen metabolism
  • Sulphate respiration


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