Active ammonia oxidizers in an acidic soil are phylogenetically closely related to neutrophilic archaeon

Baozhan Wang, Yan Zheng, Rong Huang, Xue Zhou, Dongmei Wang, Yuanqiu He, Zhongjun Jia
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2014, 80 (5): 1684-91
All cultivated ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) within the Nitrososphaera cluster (former soil group 1.1b) are neutrophilic. Molecular surveys also indicate the existence of Nitrososphaera-like phylotypes in acidic soil, but their ecological roles are poorly understood. In this study, we present molecular evidence for the chemolithoautotrophic growth of Nitrososphaera-like AOA in an acidic soil with pH 4.92 using DNA-based stable isotope probing (SIP). Soil microcosm incubations demonstrated that nitrification was stimulated by urea fertilization and accompanied by a significant increase in the abundance of AOA rather than ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). Real-time PCR analysis of amoA genes as a function of the buoyant density of the DNA gradient following the ultracentrifugation of the total DNA extracted from SIP microcosms indicated a substantial growth of soil AOA during nitrification. Pyrosequencing of the total 16S rRNA genes in the "heavy" DNA fractions suggested that archaeal communities were labeled to a much greater extent than soil AOB. Acetylene inhibition further showed that (13)CO2 assimilation by nitrifying communities depended solely on ammonia oxidation activity, suggesting a chemolithoautotrophic lifestyle. Phylogenetic analysis of both (13)C-labeled amoA and 16S rRNA genes revealed that most of the active AOA were phylogenetically closely related to the neutrophilic strains Nitrososphaera viennensis EN76 and JG1 within the Nitrososphaera cluster. Our results provide strong evidence for the adaptive growth of Nitrososphaera-like AOA in acidic soil, suggesting a greater metabolic versatility of soil AOA than previously appreciated.

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