Ammonia oxidation potential, major ammonia oxidizers and occurrence of salt-tolerant nitrifying bacteria were studied in soil samples collected from diverse ecosystems along the northern Negev desert. Great diversity in ammonia oxidation potential was observed among the soil samples, and ammonia oxidizers were the rate-limiting step of nitrification. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and partial 16S rRNA gene sequences indicate that members of the genus Nitrosospira are the major ammonia oxidizers in the natural desert soil samples. Upon enrichment with different salt concentrations, salt-tolerant nitrifying enrichments were established from several soil samples. In two enrichments, nitrification was not inhibited by 400 mM NaCl. Electrophoretic analysis and partial 16S rRNA gene sequences indicate that Nitrosomonas species were dominant in the 400 mM salt enrichment. The results point towards the potential of the desert ecosystem as a source of stress-tolerant nitrifying bacteria or other microorganisms with important properties.
Keywords: Ammonia oxidizers; Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis; Nitrosospira; Nitrosomonas; Salt tolerance
Journal Article. 4602 words. Illustrated.
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