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A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Desulfobacter



Higher order taxa:

Bacteria; Proteobacteria; delta/epsilon subdivisions; Deltaproteobacteria; Desulfobacterales; Desulfobacteraceae


NCBI: Taxonomy Genome

Description and Significance

Genome Structure

Cell Structure and Metabolism



D. variabilis contains significant quantities of AEG-P (top), and almost 20% of the alkyl-glycerol bond is present as DPG lipids, also known as "cardiolipin" (bottom). Note that the DPGs contain either ether or ester linkages in the core lipids.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. Desulfosarcina variabilis is mesophilic, and contains bacterial core lipids (see images on left). The dominant phospholipid headgroups in D. variabilis are Phosphoethanolamine PE (48%) and Phosphoglycerol PG (33%). One study has found that Desulfosarcina variabilis solely contained n-hexadecyl ether side chains. For more information on tetraether lipids found in Archaea, click here.


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.

The Plum Island Estuary Microbial Observatory (PIMO), located at the Plum Island Estuary LTER site in coastal Massachusetts, identifies prokaryotes in salt marsh sediments and plankton and determines their role in controlling major ecosystem processes. Among SRBs identified, relatives of Desulfosarcina variabilis and Desulfobacterium anilini were found to be persistent in the sediment.


Arches, specifically p.10 populations and methods.PDF here.

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

PIMO Database.

Rutters H, Sass H, Cypionka H, Rullkotter J. "Monoalkylether phospholipids in the sulfate-reducing bacteria Desulfosarcina variabilis and Desulforhabdus amnigenus." Arch Microbiol. 2001 Dec;176(6):435-442. Epub 2001 Sep 19.

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.

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.