Biochemistry shapes growth kinetics of nitrifiers and defines their activity under specific environmental conditions

Eloi Martinez-Rabert, Cindy J. Smith, William T. Sloan, Rebeca González-Cabaleiro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Is it possible to find trends between the parameters that define microbial growth to help us explain the vast microbial diversity? Through an extensive database of kinetic parameters of nitrifiers, we analyzed if the dominance of specific populations of nitrifiers could be predicted and explained. We concluded that, in general, higher growth yield (YXS) and ammonia affinity (a0NH3) and lower growth rate (µmax) are observed for ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) than bacteria (AOB), which would explain their considered dominance in oligotrophic environments. However, comammox (CMX), with the maximum energy harvest per mole of ammonia, and some AOB, have higher a0NH3 and lower µmax than some AOA. Although we were able to correlate the presence of specific terminal oxidases with observed oxygen affinities (a0O2) for nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB), that correlation was not observed for AOB. Moreover, the presumed dominance of AOB over NOB in O2-limiting environments is discussed. Additionally, lower statistical variance of a0O2 values than for ammonia and nitrite affinities was observed, suggesting nitrogen limitation as a stronger selective pressure. Overall, specific growth strategies within nitrifying groups were not identified through the reported kinetic parameters, which might suggest that mostly, fundamental differences in biochemistry are responsible for underlying kinetic parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1290-1300
Number of pages11
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • environmental engineering
  • kinetic parameters
  • microbial interaction
  • nitrifiers


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