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Bioenergetics analysis of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and the estimation of their maximum growth yield

González-Cabaleiro, Rebeca, Curtis, Thomas Peter, Ofiţeru, Irina Dana
Water research 2019 v.154 pp. 238-245
ammonia, electrons, energy, energy metabolism, hydroxylamine, models, nitric oxide, nitrifying bacteria, organic carbon, oxidation, oxygenases, renewable energy sources, variance
The currently accepted biochemistry and bioenergetics of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) show an inefficient metabolism: only 53.8% of the energy released when a mole of ammonia is oxidised and less than two of the electrons liberated can be directed to the autotrophic anabolism. However, paradoxically, AOB seem to thrive in challenging conditions: growing readily in virtually most aerobic environment, yet limited AOB exist in pure culture. In this study, a comprehensive model of the biochemistry of the metabolism of AOB is presented. Using bioenergetics calculations and selecting the minimum estimation for the energy dissipated in each of the metabolic steps, the model predicts the highest possible true yield of 0.16 gBio/gN and a yield of 0.13 gBio/gN when cellular maintenance is considered. Observed yields should always be lower than these values but the range of experimental values in literature vary between 0.04 and 0.45 gBio/gN. In this work, we discuss if this variance of observed values for AOB growth yield could be understood if other non-considered alternative energy sources are present in the biochemistry of AOB. We analyse how the predicted maximum growth yield of AOB changes considering co-metabolism, the use of hydroxylamine as a substrate, the abiotic oxidation of NO, energy harvesting in the monooxygenase enzyme or the use of organic carbon sources.