Fungi that can reduce elemental sulfur to sulfide are widely distributed, but the mechanism and physiological significance of the reaction have been poorly characterized. Here, we purified elemental sulfur-reductase (SR) and cloned its gene from the elemental sulfur-reducing fungus Fusarium oxysporum. We found that NADPH-glutathione reductase (GR) reduces elemental sulfur via glutathione as an intermediate. A loss-of-function mutant of the SR/GR gene generated less sulfide from elemental sulfur than the wild-type strain. Its growth was hypersensitive to elemental sulfur, and it accumulated higher levels of oxidized glutathione, indicating that the GR/glutathione system confers tolerance to cytotoxic elemental sulfur by reducing it to less harmful sulfide. The SR/GR reduced polysulfide as efficiently as elemental sulfur, which implies that soluble polysulfide shuttles reducing equivalents to exocellular insoluble elemental sulfur and generates sulfide. The ubiquitous distribution of the GR/glutathione system together with our findings that GR-deficient mutants derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Aspergillus nidulans reduced less sulfur and that their growth was hypersensitive to elemental sulfur indicated a wide distribution of the system among fungi. These results indicate a novel biological function of the GR/glutathione system in elemental sulfur reduction, which is distinguishable from bacterial and archaeal mechanisms of glutathione- independent sulfur reduction.
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