• Open Access

Mimicking the oxygen minimum zones: stimulating interaction of aerobic archaeal and anaerobic bacterial ammonia oxidizers in a laboratory-scale model system


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In marine oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) rather than marine ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) may provide nitrite to anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria. Here we demonstrate the cooperation between marine anammox bacteria and nitrifiers in a laboratory-scale model system under oxygen limitation. A bioreactor containing ‘Candidatus Scalindua profunda’ marine anammox bacteria was supplemented with AOA (Nitrosopumilus maritimus strain SCM1) cells and limited amounts of oxygen. In this way a stable mixed culture of AOA, and anammox bacteria was established within 200 days while also a substantial amount of endogenous AOB were enriched. ‘Ca. Scalindua profunda’ and putative AOB and AOA morphologies were visualized by transmission electron microscopy and a C18 anammox [3]-ladderane fatty acid was highly abundant in the oxygen-limited culture. The rapid oxygen consumption by AOA and AOB ensured that anammox activity was not affected. High expression of AOA, AOB and anammox genes encoding for ammonium transport proteins was observed, likely caused by the increased competition for ammonium. The competition between AOA and AOB was found to be strongly related to the residual ammonium concentration based on amoA gene copy numbers. The abundance of archaeal amoA copy numbers increased markedly when the ammonium concentration was below 30 μM finally resulting in almost equal abundance of AOA and AOB amoA copy numbers. Massive parallel sequencing of mRNA and activity analyses further corroborated equal abundance of AOA and AOB. PTIO addition, inhibiting AOA activity, was employed to determine the relative contribution of AOB versus AOA to ammonium oxidation. The present study provides the first direct evidence for cooperation of archaeal ammonia oxidation with anammox bacteria by provision of nitrite and consumption of oxygen.