A biochemical, biophysical, and phylogenetic study of the sulfur oxygenase reductase (SOR) from the mesophilic gammaproteo-bacterium Halothiobacillus neapolitanus (HnSOR) was performed in order to determine the structural and biochemical properties of the enzyme. SOR proteins from 14 predominantly chemolithoautotrophic bacterial and archaeal species are currently available in public databases. Sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis showed that they form a coherent protein family. The HnSOR purified from Escherichia coli after heterologous gene expression had a temperature range of activity of 10 to 99 degrees C with an optimum at 80 degrees C (42 U/mg protein). Sulfite, thiosulfate, and hydrogen sulfide were formed at various stoichiometries in a range between pH 5.4 and 11 (optimum pH 8.4). Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering showed that the HnSOR adopts secondary and quaternary structures similar to those of the 24-subunit enzyme from the hyperthermophile Acidianus ambivalens (AaSOR). The melting point of the HnSOR was approximate to 20 degrees C lower than that of the AaSOR, when analyzed with CD-monitored thermal unfolding. Homology modeling showed that the secondary structure elements of single subunits are conserved. Subtle changes in the pores of the outer shell and increased flexibility might contribute to activity at low temperature. We concluded that the thermostability was the result of a rigid protein core together with the stabilizing effect of the 24-subunit hollow sphere.