Molecular diversity of soil and marine 16S rRNA gene sequences related to beta-subgroup ammonia-oxidizing bacteria

Jeffrey Stephen, Elspeth Emily McCaig, Zena Smith, James Ivor Prosser, T M Embley

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354 Citations (Scopus)


We have conducted a preliminary phylogenetic survey of ammonia-oxidizing beta-proteobacteria, using 16S rRNA gene libraries prepared by selective PCR and DNA from acid and neutral soils and polluted and nonpolluted marine sediments. Enrichment cultures were established from samples and analyzed by PCR. Analysis of 111 partial sequences of c. 300 bases revealed that the environmental sequences formed seven clusters, four of which are novel, within the phylogenetic radiation defined by cultured autotrophic ammonia oxidizers, Longer sequences from 13 cluster representatives support their phylogenetic positions relative to cultured taxa, These data suggest that known taxa may not be representative of the ammonia-oxidizing P-proteobacteria in our samples. Our data provide further evidence that molecular and culture-based enrichment methods can select for different community members. Most enrichments contained novel Nitrosomonas-like sequences whereas novel Nitrosospira-like sequences were more common from gene libraries of soils and marine sediments. This is the first evidence for the occurrence of Nitrosospira-like strains in marine samples. Clear differences between the sequences of soil and marine sediment libraries were detected. Comparison of 16S rRNA sequences from polluted and nonpolluted sediments provided no strong evidence that the community composition was determined by the degree of pollution. Soil clone sequences fell into four clusters, each containing sequences from acid and neutral soils in varying proportions. Our data suggest that some related strains may be present in both samples, but further work is needed to resolve whether there is selection due to pH for particular sequence types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4147-4154
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • ACID
  • PCR


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