The Pyrococcus furiosus ironome is dominated by [Fe4S4]2+ clusters or thioferrate-like iron depending on the availability of elemental sulfur Academic Article uri icon


  • Pyrococcus furiosus is a hyperthermophilic anaerobic archaeon whose metabolism depends on whether elemental sulfur is (+S0) or is not (-S0) included in growth medium. Under +S0 conditions, expression of respiratory hydrogenase declines while respiratory membrane-bound sulfane reductase and the putative iron-storage protein IssA increase. Our objective was to investigate the iron content of WT and ΔIssA cells under these growth conditions using Mössbauer spectroscopy. WT-S0 cells contained ∼1 mM Fe, with ∼85% present as two spectroscopically distinct forms of S = 0 [Fe4S4]2+ clusters; the remainder was mainly high-spin FeII. WT+S0 cells contained 5 to 9 mM Fe, with 75 to 90% present as magnetically ordered thioferrate-like (TFL) iron nanoparticles. TFL iron was similar to chemically defined thioferrates; both consisted of FeIII ions coordinated by an S4 environment, and both exhibited strong coupling between particles causing high applied fields to have little spectral effect. At high temperatures with magnetic hyperfine interactions abolished, TFL iron exhibited two doublets overlapping those of [Fe4S4]2+ clusters in -S0 cells. This coincidence arose because of similar coordination environments of TFL iron and cluster iron. The TFL structure was more heterogeneous in the presence of IssA. Presented data suggest that IssA may coordinate insoluble iron sulfides as TFL iron, formed as a byproduct of anaerobic sulfur respiration under high iron conditions, which thereby reduces its toxicity to the cell. This was the first Mössbauer characterization of the ironome of an archaeon, and it illustrates differences relative to the iron content of better-studied bacteria such as Escherichia coli.

author list (cited authors)

  • Vali, S. W., Haja, D. K., Brand, R. A., Adams, M., & Lindahl, P. A.

complete list of authors

  • Vali, Shaik Waseem||Haja, Dominik K||Brand, Richard A||Adams, Michael WW||Lindahl, Paul A

publication date

  • January 1, 2021 11:11 AM