Dependence of nitrite oxidation on nitrite and oxygen in low-oxygen seawater

Xin Sun, Qixing Ji, Amal Jayakumar, Bettie Ward

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41 Scopus citations


Nitrite oxidation is an essential step in transformations of fixed nitrogen. The physiology of nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) implies that the rates of nitrite oxidation should be controlled by concentration of their substrate, nitrite, and the terminal electron acceptor, oxygen. The sensitivities of nitrite oxidation to oxygen and nitrite concentrations were investigated using 15N tracer incubations in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific. Nitrite stimulated nitrite oxidation under low in situ nitrite conditions, following Michaelis-Menten kinetics, indicating that nitrite was the limiting substrate. The nitrite half-saturation constant (Ks = 0.254 ± 0.161 μM) was 1–3 orders of magnitude lower than in cultivated NOB, indicating higher affinity of marine NOB for nitrite. The highest rates of nitrite oxidation were measured in the oxygen depleted zone (ODZ), and were partially inhibited by additions of oxygen. This oxygen sensitivity suggests that ODZ specialist NOB, adapted to low-oxygen conditions, are responsible for apparently anaerobic nitrite oxidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7883-7891
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 16 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • nitrite kinetics
  • nitrite oxidation
  • oxygen minimum zone


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