Berg C, Vandieken V, Thamdrup B, Jürgens K
ISME J 9 (6) 1319-1332 [2015-06-00; online 2014-11-25]
Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) of the phylum Thaumarchaeota are widespread, and their abundance in many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems suggests a prominent role in nitrification. AOA also occur in high numbers in oxygen-deficient marine environments, such as the pelagic redox gradients of the central Baltic Sea; however, data on archaeal nitrification rates are scarce and little is known about the factors, for example sulfide, that regulate nitrification in this system. In the present work, we assessed the contribution of AOA to ammonia oxidation rates in Baltic deep basins and elucidated the impact of sulfide on this process. Rate measurements with (15)N-labeled ammonium, CO(2) dark fixation measurements and quantification of AOA by catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed that among the three investigated sites the highest potential nitrification rates (122-884 nmol l(-1)per day) were measured within gradients of decreasing oxygen, where thaumarchaeotal abundance was maximal (2.5-6.9 × 10(5) cells per ml) and CO(2) fixation elevated. In the presence of the archaeal-specific inhibitor GC(7), nitrification was reduced by 86-100%, confirming the assumed dominance of AOA in this process. In samples spiked with sulfide at concentrations similar to those of in situ conditions, nitrification activity was inhibited but persisted at reduced rates. This result together with the substantial nitrification potential detected in sulfidic waters suggests the tolerance of AOA to periodic mixing of anoxic and sulfidic waters. It begs the question of whether the globally distributed Thaumarchaeota respond similarly in other stratified water columns or whether the observed robustness against sulfide is a specific feature of the thaumarchaeotal subcluster present in the Baltic Deeps.