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Hydrogen powers important nitrogen-transforming bacteria
Date:8/29/2014

ong to the genus Nitrospira. These bacteria occur in the most different habitats such as soil, rivers, lakes and oceans, and even in hot springs. In addition, Nitrospira are the key nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in wastewater treatment plants. A team of scientists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and France has now revealed surprising facts about these microorganisms. "The genome analysis of a Nitrospira species indicated that this bacterium might use hydrogen as an alternative source of energy" says Holger Daims from the Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science of the University of Vienna. The potential of Nitrospira to use hydrogen was then studied in detail.

NanoSIMS at the University of Vienna for high-resolution single-cell analyses

The hydrogen-dependent growth of Nitrospira could be visualized in individual bacterial cells by using the high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometer, also called "NanoSIMS", at the University of Vienna. Under high vacuum conditions like in space, this method shoots small particles out of single bacterial cells for subsequent identification by mass spectrometry. "This exciting approach is feasible at very few research institutions worldwide", says Daims about this high-tech equipment. The scientists could show that Nitrospira cells, which use hydrogen as the source of energy, incorporate carbon dioxide into their biomass. This metabolic activity is linked to cell proliferation and was important evidence that the Nitrospira bacteria indeed use hydrogen for growth. These newly discovered features raise numerous questions about the lifestyle of the "free-living" close relatives of this Nitrospira species in the environment and wastewater treatment plants.

New insights into the ecology of nitrite oxidizers

"The oxidation of hydrogen not only enables Nitrospira to colonize unexpected habitats, but also sustains their
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Contact: Holger Daims
daims@microbial-ecology.net
43-142-777-6604
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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