Effects of Soil on Ammonia, Ethylene, Chloroethane, and 1,1,1-Trichloroethane Oxidation by Nitrosomonas europaea†


American Society for Microbiology


Ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) from Nitrosomonas europaea catalyzes the oxidation of ammonia to hydroxylamine and has been shown to oxidize a variety of halogenated and nonhalogenated hydrocarbons. As part of a program focused upon extending these observations to natural systems, a study was conducted to examine the influence of soil upon the cooxidative abilities of N. europaea. Small quantities of Willamette silt loam (organic carbon content, 1.8%; cation-exchange capacity, 15 cmol/kg of soil) were suspended with N. europaea cells in a soil-slurry-type reaction mixture. The oxidations of ammonia and three different hydrocarbons (ethylene, chloroethane, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane) were compared to results for controls in which no soil was added. The soil significantly inhibited nitrite production from 10 mM ammonium by N. europaea. Inhibition resulted from a combination of ammonium adsorption onto soil colloids and the exchangeable acidity of the soil lowering the pH of the reaction mixture. These phenomena resulted in a substantial drop in the concentration of NH4+ in solution (10 to 4.5 mM) and, depending upon the pH, in a reduction in the amount of available NH3 to concentrations (8 to 80 μM) similar to the Ks value of AMO for NH3 (∼29 μM). At a fixed initial pH (7.8), the presence of soil also modified the rates of oxidation of ethylene and chloroethane and changed the concentrations at which their maximal rates of oxidation occurred. The modifying effects of soil on nitrite production and on the cooxidation of ethylene and chloroethane could be circumvented by raising the ammonium concentration in the reaction mixture from 10 to 50 mM. Soil had virtually no effect on the oxidation of 1,1,1-trichloroethane.

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