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A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Thermodesulfobacterium

Thermodesulfobacterium hydrogeniphilum sp. nov. (a) Phase-contrast micrograph of strain (b) Electron micrograph of a negatively stained cell of strain showing a single polar flagellum.
Jeanthon et al.


Higher order taxa:

Bacteria; Thermodesulfobacteria; Thermodesulfobacteria (class); Thermodesulfobacteriales; Thermodesulfobacteriaceae


Thermodesulfobacterium commune, T. hveragerdense, T. hydrogeniphilum, T. thermophilum

NCBI: Taxonomy Genome

Description and Significance

Thermodesulfobacterium is a Group II sulfate-reducing bacteria because it can can utilize acetate and other fatty acids, oxidizing them completely. It also produces nonisoprenoid branched glycerol diethers (discussed below). Sulfate-reducing bacteria fall into over 20 separate genera and these can be classified by the types of substrates that are utilized. A convenient division is by the ability to utilize acetate as a source of electrons. Other Group II sulfate-reducers include Desulfosarcina and Desulfobacter. For more information on sulfate-reducing bacteria genera, click here

Thermodesulfobacterium commune expresses a unique type of dissimilatory sulfite reductase which is taxonomically distinct from that of related genera or other hyperthermophilic sulfate reducers.

Genome Structure

Thermodesulfobacterium commune Strain DSM 2178. The type strain for this organism is being used for comparative genome analysis, and is not yet finished being sequenced. Click here for more information.

Cell Structure and Metabolism

Significant ammounts of DPG bacterial core lipids have been found in T. commune; trace ammounts in T. hveragerdense. Note that it can contain either ether or ester linkages in the core lipids.
Non-N-methylated APT, which constitutes one of the major groups of IPLs in T. commune.
lipids RCM 2004.pdf Sturt et al

Sulfate reducers have a wide range of cellular morphologies, including rods, vibrios, ovals, spheres and even tear-dropped or onion shaped cells. Some are motile, others are not. Most sulfate-reducing bacteria are mesophilic, but a few thermophiles are known.

T. commune is hyperthermophilic, rod-shaped, anaerobic, has no motility, and no endospores. Interestingly, T. hydrogeniphilum is thermophilic, non-spore-forming, gram-negative, and it cells occur singly or in pairs as small, highly motile rods.

T. commune and T. hveragerdense, two closely related sulfate-reducers, are similar but can be distuingished on the basis of their intact membrane lipids. Both species have the same headgroups but in different proportions. Phosphoethanolamine PE is the major headgroup in both (51% in T. commune and 79% in T. hveragerdense), while Phosphoinositol PI comprises 13% of the IPLs in T. commune and 17% of the Intact Polar Lipids (IPLs) in T. hveragerdense. One major difference is that significant ammounts of DPG bacterial core lipids (left, top) are present in T. commune, while T. hveragerdense contains only traces of it.

The most surprising fact concerning IPLs in these bacteria deals with Non-N-methylated APT (left, bottom), and came from a recent study. The presence of APT had not yet been documented for these two bacteria, and APT was considered extremely rare in the bacterial domain while reasonably common in archaea. It had been reported for the archaeal order Methanomicrobiaceae, which produce the N-methylated APT version; the only bacterial example to date has been a Hydrogenobacter thermophilus strain. However, the study found Non-N-methylated APT present in both species, and in T. commune APT constitutes one of the major groups of IPLs with a relative abundance of 22%. For more information on the interesting ramifications of this discovery click here and look at p.7.


Overall, Thermodesulfobacterium's habitat is generally observed to be aquatic. Isolated from volcanic hot springs, deep-sea hydrothermal sulfides, and other marine environments. This is thought to be because although sulfate reduction is thought to be an anaerobic process, sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are also important in aerobic environments if they can proliferate in anaerobic zones. For example, in marine sediments and in aerobic wastewater treatment systems, sulfate reduction accounts for up to 50% of the mineralization of organic matter. Furthermore, sulfate reduction strongly stimulates microbially enhanced corrosion of metals.


Jeanthon, C.; S. L'Haridon, V. Cueff, A. Banta, A. L. Reysenbach and D. Prieur. "Thermodesulfobacterium hydrogeniphilum sp. nov., a thermophilic, chemolithoautotrophic, sulfate-reducing bacterium isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent at Guaymas Basin, and emendation of the genus Thermodesulfobacterium." International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, Vol 52, 765-772, Copyright © 2002 by Society for General Microbiology.

Microbiology Textbook. Copyright, Timothy Paustian© 1999-2004.

Santegoeds, Cecilia M.; Timothy G. Ferdelman, Gerard Muyzer, and Dirk de Beer. "Structural and Functional Dynamics of Sulfate-Reducing Populations in Bacterial Biofilms." Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 October; 64(10): 3731–3739. Copyright © 1998, American Society for Microbiology.

lipids RCM 2004.pdf Sturt, Helen F.; Roger E. Summons, Kristin Smith, Marcus Elvert, and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs. "Intact polar membrane lipids in prokaryotes and sediments deciphered by high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization multistage mass spectrometry—new biomarkers for biogeochemistry and microbial ecology." Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 2004; 18: 617–628.