Impact Factor


Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Microbiol., 18 July 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2012.00252

Global biodiversity of aquatic ammonia-oxidizing archaea is partitioned by habitat

Steven J. Biller1, Annika C. Mosier1†‡, George F. Wells2†‡ and Christopher A. Francis1*
  • 1 Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
  • 2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

Archaea play an important role in nitrification and are, thus, inextricably linked to the global carbon and nitrogen cycles. Since the initial discovery of an ammonia monooxygenase α-subunit (amoA) gene associated with an archaeal metagenomic fragment, archaeal amoA sequences have been detected in a wide variety of nitrifying environments. Recent sequencing efforts have revealed extensive diversity of archaeal amoA sequences within different habitats. In this study, we have examined over 8000 amoA sequences from the literature and public databases in an effort to understand the ecological factors influencing the distribution and diversity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), with a particular focus on sequences from aquatic habitats. This broad survey provides strong statistical support for the hypothesis that different environments contain distinct clusters of AOA amoA sequences, as surprisingly few sequences are found in more than one habitat type. Within aquatic environments, salinity, depth in the water column, and temperature were significantly correlated with the distribution of sequence types. These findings support the existence of multiple distinct aquatic AOA populations in the environment and suggest some possible selective pressures driving the partitioning of AOA amoA diversity.

Keywords: biogeography, ammonia-oxidizing archaea, nitrification, Thaumarchaeota, amoA

Citation: Biller SJ, Mosier AC, Wells GF and Francis CA (2012) Global biodiversity of aquatic ammonia-oxidizing archaea is partitioned by habitat. Front. Microbio. 3:252. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00252

Received: 10 April 2012; Paper pending published: 30 April 2012;
Accepted: 27 June 2012; Published online: 18 July 2012.

Edited by:

Karla B. Heidelberg, University of Southern California, USA

Reviewed by:

Zhe-Xue Quan, Fudan University, China
Anne Bernhard, Connecticut College, USA

Copyright: © 2012 Biller, Mosier, Wells and Francis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Christopher A. Francis, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Y2E2 Building Room 140, Stanford, CA 94305-4216, USA. e-mail: caf@stanford.edu

Present address: Steven J. Biller, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA; Annika C. Mosier, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA; George F. Wells, Department of Process Engineering, Eawag Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland.

Annika C. Mosier and George F. Wells have contributed equally to this work.