Nitrosospira spp. can produce nitrous oxide via a nitrifier denitrification pathway

L J Shaw, G W Nicol, Z Smith, J Fear, J I Prosser, E M Baggs

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274 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from soils is a major contributor to the atmospheric loading of this potent greenhouse gas. It is thought that autotrophic ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) are a significant source of soil-derived N2O and a denitrification pathway (i.e. reduction of NO2- to NO and N2O), so-called nitrifier denitrification, has been demonstrated as a N2O production mechanism in Nitrosomonas europaea. It is thought that Nitrosospira spp. are the dominant AOB in soil, but little information is available on their ability to produce N2O or on the existence of a nitrifier denitrification pathway in this lineage. This study aims to characterize N2O production and nitrifier denitrification in seven strains of AOB representative of clusters 0, 2 and 3 in the cultured Nitrosospira lineage. Nitrosomonas europaea ATCC 19718 and ATCC 25978 were analysed for comparison. The aerobically incubated test strains produced significant (P < 0.001) amounts of N2O and total N2O production rates ranged from 2.0 amol cell(-1) h(-1), in Nitrosospira tenuis strain NV12, to 58.0 amol cell(-1) h(-1), in N. europaea ATCC 19718. Nitrosomonas europaea ATCC 19718 was atypical in that it produced four times more N2O than the next highest producing strain. All AOB tested were able to carry out nitrifier denitrification under aerobic conditions, as determined by production of N-15-N2O from applied N-15-NO2-. Up to 13.5% of the N2O produced was derived from the exogenously applied N-15-NO2-. The results suggest that nitrifier denitrification could be a universal trait in the betaproteobacterial AOB and its potential ecological significance is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • ammonia-oxidizing bacteria
  • 16S ribosomal-RNA
  • nitrosomonas-Europaea
  • nitrite reductase
  • molecular-basis
  • N2O production
  • soils
  • oxidation
  • oxygen
  • nitrification


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