Mixotrophic growth of the facultatively autotrophic acidophile Thiobacillus acidophilus on mixtures of glucose and thiosulfate or tetrathionate was studied in substrate-limited chemostat cultures. Growth yields in mixotrophic cultures were higher than the sum of the heterotrophic and autotrophic growth yields. Pulse experiments with thiosulfate indicated that tetrathionate is an intermediate during thiosulfate oxidation by cell suspensions of T. acidophilus. From mixotrophic growth studies, the energetic value of thiosulfate and tetrathionate redox equivalents was estimated to be 50% of that of redox equivalents derived from glucose oxidation. Ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (RuBPCase) activities in cell extracts and rates of sulfur compound oxidation by cell suspensions increased with increasing thiosulfate/glucose ratios in the influent medium of the mixotrophic cultures. Significant RuBPCase and sulfur compound-oxidizing activities were detected in heterotrophically grown T. acidophilus. Polyhedral inclusion bodies (carboxysomes) could be observed at low frequencies in thin sections of cells grown in heterotrophic, glucose-limited chemostat cultures. Highest RuBPCase activities and carboxysome abundancy were observed in cells from autotrophic, CO2-limited chemostat cultures. The maximum growth rate at which thiosulfate was still completely oxidized was increased when glucose was utilized simultaneously. This, together with the fact that even during heterotrophic growth the organism exhibited significant activities of enzymes involved in autotrophic metabolism, indicates that T. acidophilus is well adapted to a mixotrophic lifestyle. In this respect, T. acidophilus may have a competitive advantage over autotrophic acidophiles with respect to the sulfur compound oxidation in environments in which organic compounds are present
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