Effects of nitrite on ammonia-oxidizing activity and gene regulation in three ammonia-oxidizing bacteria


  • Editor: Juan Imperial

Correspondence: Lisa Y. Stein, Department of Biological Sciences, CW 405 Biological Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E9. Tel.: +780 492 4782; fax: +780 492 9234; e-mail: lisa.stein@ualberta.ca


Nitrite is the highly toxic end product of ammonia oxidation that accumulates in the absence of a nitrite-consuming process and is inhibitory to nitrifying and other bacteria. The effects of nitrite on ammonia oxidation rates and regulation of a common gene set were compared in three ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) to determine whether responses to this toxic metabolite were uniform. Mid-exponential-phase cells of Nitrosomonas europaea ATCC 19718, Nitrosospira multiformis ATCC 25196, and Nitrosomonas eutropha C-91 were incubated for 6 h in mineral medium supplemented with 0, 10, or 20 mM NaNO2. The rates of ammonia oxidation (nitrite production) decreased significantly only in NaNO2-supplemented incubations of N. eutropha; no significant effect on the rates was observed for N. europaea or N. multiformis. The levels of norB (nitric oxide reductases), cytL (cytochrome P460), and cytS (cytochrome c′-β) mRNA were unaffected by nitrite in all strains. The levels of nirK (nitrite reductase) mRNA increased only in N. europaea in response to nitrite (10 and 20 mM). Nitrite (20 mM) significantly reduced the mRNA levels of amoA (ammonia monooxygenase) in N. multiformis and norS (nitric oxide reductase) in the two Nitrosomonas spp. Differences in response to nitrite indicated nonuniform adaptive and regulatory strategies of AOB, even between closely related species.