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Comparison of oxidation kinetics of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria: nitrite availability as a key factor in niche differentiation.

Applied and environmental microbiology (2014-11-16)
Boris Nowka, Holger Daims, Eva Spieck
ABSTRACT

Nitrification has an immense impact on nitrogen cycling in natural ecosystems and in wastewater treatment plants. Mathematical models function as tools to capture the complexity of these biological systems, but kinetic parameters especially of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are lacking because of a limited number of pure cultures until recently. In this study, we compared the nitrite oxidation kinetics of six pure cultures and one enrichment culture representing three genera of NOB (Nitrobacter, Nitrospira, Nitrotoga). With half-saturation constants (Km) between 9 and 27 μM nitrite, Nitrospira bacteria are adapted to live under significant substrate limitation. Nitrobacter showed a wide range of lower substrate affinities, with Km values between 49 and 544 μM nitrite. However, the advantage of Nitrobacter emerged under excess nitrite supply, sustaining high maximum specific activities (Vmax) of 64 to 164 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h, contrary to the lower activities of Nitrospira of 18 to 48 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h. The Vmax (26 μmol nitrite/mg protein/h) and Km (58 μM nitrite) of "Candidatus Nitrotoga arctica" measured at a low temperature of 17°C suggest that Nitrotoga can advantageously compete with other NOB, especially in cold habitats. The kinetic parameters determined represent improved basis values for nitrifying models and will support predictions of community structure and nitrification rates in natural and engineered ecosystems.

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