Recent advances in dissimilatory sulfate reduction: From metabolic study to application

Zeng Qian, Hao Tianwei, Hamish Mackey, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Chen Guanghao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

7 Citations (Scopus)


Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are a group of diverse anaerobic microorganisms omnipresent in natural habitats and engineered environments that use sulfur compounds as the electron acceptor for energy metabolism. Dissimilatory sulfate reduction (DSR)-based techniques mediated by SRB have been utilized in many sulfate-containing wastewater treatment systems worldwide, particularly for acid mine drainage, groundwater, sewage and industrial wastewater remediation. However, DSR processes are often operated suboptimally and disturbances are common in practical application. To improve the efficiency and robustness of SRB-based processes, it is necessary to study SRB metabolism and operational conditions. In this review, the mechanisms of DSR processes are reviewed and discussed focusing on intracellular and extracellular electron transfer with different electron donors (hydrogen, organics, methane and electrodes). Based on the understanding of the metabolism of SRB, responses of SRB to environmental stress (pH-, temperature-, and salinity-related stress) are summarized at the species and community levels. Application in these stressed conditions is discussed and future research is proposed. The feasibility of recovering energy and resources such as biohydrogen, hydrocarbons, polyhydroxyalkanoates, magnetite and metal sulfides through the use of SRB were investigated but some long-standing questions remain unanswered. Linking the existing scientific understanding and observations to practical application is the challenge as always for promotion of SRB-based techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-181
Number of pages20
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019



  • Dissimilatory sulfate reduction
  • Electron transfer
  • Energy and resources recovery
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
  • Stress responses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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