Inhibition of ammonia monooxygenase from ammonia oxidising archaea by linear and aromatic alkynes

Chloë L Wright, Arne Schatteman, Andrew T Crombie, J Colin Murrell, Laura E Lehtovirta-Morley

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Ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) is a key nitrogen-transforming enzyme belonging to the same copper-dependent membrane monooxygenase family (CuMMO) as the particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO). The AMO from ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) is very divergent from both the AMO of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and the pMMO from methanotrophs, and little is known about the structure or substrate range of the archaeal AMO. This study compares inhibition by C 2 to C 8 linear 1-alkynes of AMO from two phylogenetically distinct strains of AOA, " Candidatus Nitrosocosmicus franklandus" C13 and " Candidatus Nitrosotalea sinensis" Nd2, with AMO from Nitrosomonas europaea and pMMO from Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath). An increased sensitivity of the archaeal AMO to short-chain-length alkynes (≤C 5) appeared to be conserved across AOA lineages. Similarities in C 2 to C 8 alkyne inhibition profiles between AMO from AOA and pMMO from M. capsulatus suggested that the archaeal AMO has a narrower substrate range than N. europaea AMO. Inhibition of AMO from " Ca Nitrosocosmicus franklandus" and N. europaea by the aromatic alkyne phenylacetylene was also investigated. Kinetic data revealed that the mechanisms by which phenylacetylene inhibits " Ca Nitrosocosmicus franklandus" and N. europaea are different, indicating differences in the AMO active site between AOA and AOB. Phenylacetylene was found to be a specific and irreversible inhibitor of AMO from " Ca Nitrosocosmicus franklandus," and it does not compete with NH 3 for binding at the active site. IMPORTANCE Archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers (AOA and AOB, respectively) initiate nitrification by oxidizing ammonia to hydroxylamine, a reaction catalyzed by ammonia monooxygenase (AMO). AMO enzyme is difficult to purify in its active form, and its structure and biochemistry remain largely unexplored. The bacterial AMO and the closely related particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO) have a broad range of hydrocarbon cooxidation substrates. This study provides insights into the AMO of previously unstudied archaeal genera, by comparing the response of the archaeal AMO, a bacterial AMO, and pMMO to inhibition by linear 1-alkynes and the aromatic alkyne, phenylacetylene. Reduced sensitivity to inhibition by larger alkynes suggests that the archaeal AMO has a narrower hydrocarbon substrate range than the bacterial AMO, as previously reported for other genera of AOA. Phenylacetylene inhibited the archaeal and bacterial AMOs at different thresholds and by different mechanisms of inhibition, highlighting structural differences between the two forms of monooxygenase.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02388
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number9
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • ammonia monooxygenase
  • ammonia oxidizers
  • inhibition
  • linear 1-alkynes
  • methanotrophs
  • phenylacetylene

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