The biodegradability of macromolecular organic structures of geological origin was investigated by performing in vitro studies. Cultures of the common Nocardioides simplex were grown, first, on a high molecular weight, asymmetric thioether (1-(phytanylsulfanyl)-octadecane 1) and then on macromolecular fractions isolated from a sulfur-rich oil. Gross data indicate that bacteria convert macromolecular substances to material of higher polarity by oxidizing the abundant thioethers to sulfones and sulfoxides and by introducing new functionalities, such as carboxylic acid, keto or hydroxyl groups. Furthermore, bacteria remineralize the macromolecular structures. Bacterially induced alterations were also studied on a molecular level after chemical desulfurization of the macromolecular structure. Thus, it could be established that the amounts of linear hydrocarbons in the macromolecular structure are decreased relative to branched and cyclic structures due to a preferential bacterial attack of the linear moieties bound to the macromolecules. This is further supported by the detection of S-bound fatty acids resulting from the bacterial oxidation of S-bound n-alkanes. Moreover, N. simplex also degraded sulfur-bound steranes by oxidation of the steroid side-chain leading to S-bound steroid acids.