Kinetics of ammonia oxidation by a marine nitrifying bacterium: Methane as a substrate analogue

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In pure culture, the marine ammonia oxidizer, Nitrosococcus oceanus, exhibits normal Michaelis Menten kinetics with respect to its primary substrate, ammonia. N. oceanus also exhibits a kinetic response to methane. In the absence of methane, oxidation of ammonia is first order with respect to ammonia concentration under atmospheric oxygen concentrations at seawater pH. In the presence of methane, ammonia oxidation is inhibited, and the amount of inhibition is related to the relative concentrations of methane and ammonia. Using semicontinuous batch cultures as a source of organisms for short-term kinetic experiments, I investigated the relationship between ammonia and methane oxidation in N. oceanus by varying the absolute and relative concentration of both substrates. Methane appeared to act as a substrate analogue, and its effect on ammonia oxidation was modeled as a permutation of competitive inhibition involving a cooperative enzyme system. Methane was oxidized by N. oceanus, even in the absence of measurable ammonia oxidation, but the process was inhibited at increasing methane concentrations. Of the two product pools analyzed, an average of 37% of methane oxidized was detected in particulate (cell) material and the remainder was detected in14CO2. The contribution of methane to total carbon assimilation varied with the ratio [CH4]/[NH3] and may be significant under substrate concentrations typical of a dilute aquatic environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-225
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1990
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Soil Science
  • Ecology


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