Dissimilatory Nitrite Reductase Genes from Autotrophic Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria

Karen L. Casciotti, Bettie Ward

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The presence of a copper-containing dissimilatory nitrite reductase gene (nirK) was discovered in several isolates of β-subdivision ammonia-oxidizing bacteria using PCR and DNA sequencing. PCR primers Cunir3 and Cunir4 were designed based on published nirK sequences from denitrifying bacteria and used to amplify a 540-bp fragment of the nirK gene from Nitrosomonas marina and five additional isolates of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. Amplification products of the expected size were cloned and sequenced. Alignment of the nucleic acid and deduced amino acid (AA) sequences shows significant similarity (62 to 75% DNA, 58 to 76% AA) between nitrite reductases present in these nitrifiers and the copper-containing nitrite reductase found in classic heterotrophic denitrifiers. While the presence of a nitrite reductase in Nitrosomonas europaea is known from early biochemical work, preliminary sequence data from its genome indicate a rather low similarity to the denitrifier nirKs. Phylogenetic analysis of the partial nitrifier nirK sequences indicates that the topology of the nirK tree corresponds to the 16S rRNA and amoA trees. While the role of nitrite reduction in the metabolism of nitrifying bacteria is still uncertain, these data show that the nirK gene is present in closely related nitrifying isolates from many oceanographic regions and suggest that nirK sequences retrieved from the environment may include sequences from ammonia-oxidizing bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2213-2221
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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