Archaea predominate among ammonia-oxidizing prokaryotes in soils.


Ammonia oxidation is the first step in nitrification, a key process in the global nitrogen cycle that results in the formation of nitrate through microbial activity. The increase in nitrate availability in soils is important for plant nutrition, but it also has considerable impact on groundwater pollution owing to leaching. Here we show that archaeal ammonia oxidizers are more abundant in soils than their well-known bacterial counterparts. We investigated the abundance of the gene encoding a subunit of the key enzyme ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) in 12 pristine and agricultural soils of three climatic zones. amoA gene copies of Crenarchaeota (Archaea) were up to 3,000-fold more abundant than bacterial amoA genes. High amounts of crenarchaeota-specific lipids, including crenarchaeol, correlated with the abundance of archaeal amoA gene copies. Furthermore, reverse transcription quantitative PCR studies and complementary DNA analysis using novel cloning-independent pyrosequencing technology demonstrated the activity of the archaea in situ and supported the numerical dominance of archaeal over bacterial ammonia oxidizers. Our results indicate that crenarchaeota may be the most abundant ammonia-oxidizing organisms in soil ecosystems on Earth.

5 Figures and Tables

Citations per Year

5,011 Citations

Semantic Scholar estimates that this publication has 5,011 citations based on the available data.

See our FAQ for additional information.

Cite this paper

@article{Leininger2006ArchaeaPA, title={Archaea predominate among ammonia-oxidizing prokaryotes in soils.}, author={Sven Leininger and Tim Urich and Michael Schloter and Lorenz Schwark and Jianshuang Qi and Graeme W. Nicol and James I . Prosser and Stephan C. Schuster and Christa Schleper}, journal={Nature}, year={2006}, volume={442 7104}, pages={806-9} }