Major gradients in putatively nitrifying and non-nitrifying Archaea in the deep North Atlantic

Author(s)
Hélène Agogué, Maaike Brink, Julie Dinasquet, Gerhard Herndl
Abstract

Aerobic nitrification of ammonia to nitrite and nitrate is a key process in the oceanic nitrogen cycling mediated by prokaryotes1. Apart from Bacteria belonging to the beta- and gamma-Proteobacteria involved in the first nitrification step, Crenarchaeota have recently been recognized as main drivers of the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite in soil as well as in the ocean, as indicated by the dominance of archaeal ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) genes over bacterial amoA 2, 3. Evidence is accumulating that archaeal amoA genes are common in a wide range of marine systems3, 4, 5, 6. Essentially, all these reports focused on surface and mesopelagic (200–1,000 m depth) waters, where ammonia concentrations are higher than in waters below 1,000 m depth. However, Crenarchaeota are also abundant in the water column below 1,000 m, where ammonia concentrations are extremely low. Here we show that, throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, the abundance of archaeal amoA genes decreases markedly from subsurface waters to 4,000 m depth, and from subpolar to equatorial deep waters, leading to pronounced vertical and latitudinal gradients in the ratio of archaeal amoA to crenarchaeal 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes. The lack of significant copy numbers of amoA genes and the very low fixation rates of dark carbon dioxide in the bathypelagic North Atlantic suggest that most bathypelagic Crenarchaeota are not autotrophic ammonia oxidizers: most likely, they utilize organic matter and hence live heterotrophically.

Organisation(s)
Journal
Nature
Volume
456
Pages
788-791
No. of pages
4
ISSN
0028-0836
Publication date
2008
Publication status
Published
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
1060 Biology
Electronic versions
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v456/n7223/abs/nature07535.html
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/major-gradients-in-putatively-nitrifying-and-nonnitrifying-archaea-in-the-deep-north-atlantic(2874ddf9-55ab-4889-bc4e-0693fb514acc).html