Ammonia oxidation: Ecology, physiology, biochemistry and why they must all come together

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Ammonia oxidation is a fundamental core process in the global biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. Oxidation of ammonia (NH3) to nitrite (NO2 −) is the first and rate-limiting step in nitrification and is carried out by distinct groups of microorganisms. Ammonia oxidation is essential for nutrient turnover in most terrestrial, aquatic and engineered ecosystems and plays a major role, both directly and indirectly, in greenhouse gas production and environmental damage. Although ammonia oxidation has been studied for over a century, this research field has been galvanised in the past decade by the surprising discoveries of novel ammonia oxidising microorganisms. This review reflects on the ammonia oxidation research to date and discusses the major gaps remaining in our knowledge of the biology of ammonia oxidation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfny058
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • nitrification
  • archaea
  • comammox
  • ammonia oxidising bacteria
  • niche specialisation
  • enzymology

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