Determination of total sulfur, sulfate, sulfite, thiosulfate, and sulfolipids in plants

Assylay Kurmanbayeva, Galina Brychkova, Aizat Bekturova, Inna Khozin, Dominic Standing, Dmitry Yarmolinsky, Moshe Sagi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In response to oxidative stress the biosynthesis of the ROS scavenger, glutathione is induced. This requires the induction of the sulfate reduction pathway for an adequate supply of cysteine, the precursor for glutathione. Cysteine also acts as the sulfur donor for the sulfuration of the molybdenum cofactor, crucial for the last step of ABA biosynthesis. Sulfate and sulfite are, respectively, the precursor and intermediate for cysteine biosynthesis and there is evidence for stress-induced sulfate uptake and further downstream, enhanced sulfite generation by 5′-phosphosulfate (APS) reductase (APR, EC activity. Sulfite reductase (SiR, E.C. protects the chloroplast against toxic levels of sulfite by reducing it to sulfide. In case of sulfite accumulation as a result of air pollution or stress-induced premature senescence, such as in extended darkness, sulfite can be oxidized to sulfate by sulfite oxidase. Additionally sulfite can be catalyzed to thiosulfate by sulfurtransferases or to UDP-sulfoquinovose by SQD1, being the first step toward sulfolipid biosynthesis. Determination of total sulfur in plants can be accomplished using many techniques such as ICP-AES, high-frequency induction furnace, high performance ion chromatography, sulfur combustion analysis, and colorimetric titration. Here we describe a total sulfur detection method in plants by elemental analyzer (EA). The used EA method is simple, sensitive, and accurate, and can be applied for the determination of total S content in plants. Sulfate anions in the soil are the main source of sulfur, required for normal growth and development, of plants. Plants take up sulfate ions from the soil, which are then reduced and incorporated into organic matter. Plant sulfate content can be determined by ion chromatography with carbonate eluents. Sulfite is an intermediate in the reductive assimilation of sulfate to the essential amino acids cysteine and methionine, and is cytotoxic above a certain threshold if not rapidly metabolized and can wreak havoc at the cellular and whole plant levels. Plant sulfite content affects carbon and nitrogen homeostasis Therefore, methods capable of determining sulfite levels in plants are of major importance. Here we present two robust laboratory protocols which can be used for sulfite detection in plants. Thiosulfate is an essential sulfur intermediate less toxic than sulfite which is accumulating in plants in response to sulfite accumulation. The complexity of thiosulfate detection is linked to its chemical properties. Here we present a rapid, sensitive, and accurate colorimetric method based on the enzymatic conversion of thiosulfate to thiocyanate. The plant sulfolipid sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol (SQDG) accounts for a large fraction of organic sulfur in the biosphere. Aside from sulfur amino acids, SQDG represents a considerable sink for sulfate in plants and is the only sulfur-containing anionic glycerolipid that is found in the photosynthetic membranes of plastids. We present the separation of sulfolipids from other fatty acids in two simple ways: by one- and two-dimensional thin-layer chromatography.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology


  • 1D
  • 2D
  • Colorimetric detection
  • Elemental analyzer
  • Fatty acids
  • Fuchsin colorimetric detection
  • Ion chromatography
  • NADH coupled reaction
  • OAS-TL/SiR coupled reaction
  • Rhodanese
  • SQDG
  • Sulfate
  • Sulfite
  • Sulfite detection
  • Sulfurtransferases
  • Thin-layer chromatography
  • Thiosulfate
  • Total sulfur

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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