Hydroxylamine and the nitrogen cycle: A review

Aina Soler-Jofra, Julio Pérez, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Aerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria were first isolated more than 100 years ago and hydroxylamine is known to be an intermediate. The enzymatic steps involving hydroxylamine conversion to nitrite are still under discussion. For a long time it was assumed that hydroxylamine was directly converted to nitrite by a hydroxylamine oxidoreductase. Recent enzymatic evidences suggest that the actual product of hydroxylamine conversion is NO and a third, yet unknown, enzyme further converts NO to nitrite. More recently, ammonium oxidizing archaea and complete ammonium oxidizing bacteria were isolated and identified. Still the central nitrogen metabolism of these microorganisms presents to researchers the same puzzle: how hydroxylamine is transformed to nitrite. Nitrogen losses in the form of NO and N2O have been identified in all three types of aerobic ammonium oxidizing microorganisms and hydroxylamine is known to play a significant role in the formation. Yet, the pathways and the factors promoting the greenhouse gas emissions are to be fully characterized. Hydroxylamine also plays a yet poorly understood role on anaerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria and is known to inhibit nitrite oxidizing bacteria. In this review, the role of this elusive intermediate in the metabolism of different key players of the nitrogen cycle is discussed, as well as the putative importance of hydroxylamine as a key nitrogen metabolite for microbial interactions within microbial communities and engineered systems. Overall, for the first time putting together the acquired knowledge about hydroxylamine and the nitrogen cycle over the years in a review, setting potential hypothesis and highlighting possible next steps for research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116723
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ammonium oxidation
  • Anammox
  • Intermediate
  • NO emissions
  • Nitrite oxidation


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  • Fate of Hydroxylamine in the Nitrogen Cycle

    Soler Jofra, A., 2021, 171 p.

    Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

    Open Access
    33 Downloads (Pure)

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