Cultivation of autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing archaea from marine sediments in coculture with sulfur-oxidizing bacteria

Byoung-Joon Park, Soo-Je Park, Dae-No Yoon, Stefan Schouten, Jaap S Sinninghe Damsté, Sung-Keun Rhee
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2010, 76 (22): 7575-87
The role of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in nitrogen cycling in marine sediments remains poorly characterized. In this study, we enriched and characterized AOA from marine sediments. Group I.1a crenarchaea closely related to those identified in marine sediments and "Candidatus Nitrosopumilus maritimus" (99.1 and 94.9% 16S rRNA and amoA gene sequence identities to the latter, respectively) were substantially enriched by coculture with sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB). The selective enrichment of AOA over ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) is likely due to the reduced oxygen levels caused by the rapid initial growth of SOB. After biweekly transfers for ca. 20 months, archaeal cells became the dominant prokaryotes (>80%), based on quantitative PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis. The increase of archaeal 16S rRNA gene copy numbers was coincident with the amount of ammonia oxidized, and expression of the archaeal amoA gene was observed during ammonia oxidation. Bacterial amoA genes were not detected in the enrichment culture. The affinities of these AOA to oxygen and ammonia were substantially higher than those of AOB. [(13)C]bicarbonate incorporation and the presence and activation of genes of the 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle indicated autotrophy during ammonia oxidation. In the enrichment culture, ammonium was oxidized to nitrite by the AOA and subsequently to nitrate by Nitrospina-like bacteria. Our experiments suggest that AOA may be important nitrifiers in low-oxygen environments, such as oxygen-minimum zones and marine sediments.

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