Responses of the terrestrial ammonia-oxidizing archaeon Ca. Nitrososphaera viennensis and the ammonia-oxidizing bacterium Nitrosospira multiformis to nitrification inhibitors


Correspondence: Christa Schleper, Department of Genetics in Ecology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria. Tel.: +43 1 427757800; fax: +43 1 42779578; e-mail:


Nitrification inhibitors have been used for decades to improve nitrogen fertilizer utilization in farmland. However, their effect on ammonia-oxidizing Archaea (AOA) in soil is little explored. Here, we compared the impact of diverse inhibitors on nitrification activity of the soil archaeon Ca. Nitrososphaera viennensis EN76 and compared it to that of the ammonia-oxidizing bacterium (AOB) Nitrosospira multiformis. Allylthiourea, amidinothiourea, and dicyandiamide (DCD) inhibited ammonia oxidation in cultures of both N. multiformis and N. viennensis, but the effect on N. viennensis was markedly lower. In particular, the effective concentration 50 (EC50) of allylthiourea was 1000 times higher for the AOA culture. Among the tested nitrification inhibitors, DCD was the least potent against N. viennensis. Nitrapyrin had at the maximal soluble concentration only a very weak inhibitory effect on the AOB N. multiformis, but showed a moderate effect on the AOA. The antibiotic sulfathiazole inhibited the bacterium, but barely affected the archaeon. Only the NO-scavenger carboxy-PTIO had a strong inhibitory effect on the archaeon, but had little effect on the bacterium in the concentrations tested. Our results reflect the fundamental metabolic and cellular differences of AOA and AOB and will be useful for future applications of inhibitors aimed at distinguishing activities of AOA and AOB in soil environments.