Selective inhibition of ammonia oxidising archaea by simvastatin stimulates growth of ammonia oxidising bacteria

Jun Zhao, Marcus O. Bello, Yiyu Meng, James I. Prosser, Cecile Gubry-Rangin* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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The desire to understand and distinguish the relative growth and activity of ammonia oxidising archaea (AOA) and ammonia oxidising bacteria (AOB) in soil nitrification has increased the search for selective inhibitors of these two groups. This study aimed to investigate the potency and specificity of simvastatin as a specific AOA inhibitor in pure cultures and in soil and to determine the effect of AOA inhibition on both ammonia oxidation activity and growth of AOB, under the hypothesis that AOB growth is higher when competition for NH4+ from AOA is removed. Simvastatin selectively inhibited pure cultures of all tested AOA at concentrations of 8 – 100 µM. In soil microcosms incubated for 21 days with low and high NH4+ concentrations, AOA but not AOB were selectively inhibited by simvastatin in both acidic (pH 4.5) and near-neutral (pH 6.5) soils. Additionally, growth of AOB significantly increased at both NH4+ concentrations following inhibition of AOA by simvastatin, suggesting that competition for substrate between AOA and AOB is a key factor restraining AOB growth in NH4+ -limitedsoils. Simvastatin can therefore be used as a selective AOA inhibitor to investigate kinetic characteristics of AOB in soils and to study competition between AOA and AOB in complex environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107673
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Early online date18 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • activity
  • nitrification
  • inhibitor
  • ammonia
  • Thaumarchaeota
  • stable isotope probing
  • Ammonia
  • Stable isotope probing
  • Nitrification
  • Activity
  • Inhibitor


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