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Title: Microbial niche differentiation explains nitrite oxidation in marine oxygen minimum zones

Nitrite is a pivotal component of the marine nitrogen cycle. The fate of nitrite determines the loss or retention of fixed nitrogen, an essential nutrient for all organisms. Loss occurs via anaerobic nitrite reduction to gases during denitrification and anammox, while retention occurs via nitrite oxidation to nitrate. Nitrite oxidation is usually represented in biogeochemical models by one kinetic parameter and one oxygen threshold, below which nitrite oxidation is set to zero. Here we find that the responses of nitrite oxidation to nitrite and oxygen concentrations vary along a redox gradient in a Pacific Ocean oxygen minimum zone, indicating niche differentiation of nitrite-oxidizing assemblages. Notably, we observe the full inhibition of nitrite oxidation by oxygen addition and nitrite oxidation coupled with nitrogen loss in the absence of oxygen consumption in samples collected from anoxic waters. Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, including novel clades with high relative abundance in anoxic depths, were also detected in the same samples. Mechanisms corresponding to niche differentiation of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria across the redox gradient are considered. Implementing these mechanisms in biogeochemical models has a significant effect on the estimated fixed nitrogen budget.

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The ISME Journal
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p. 1317-1329
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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