The link between the nitrogen and one-carbon cycles forms the metabolic basis for energy and biomass synthesis in autotrophic nitrifying organisms, which in turn are crucial players in engineered nitrogen removal processes. To understand how autotrophic nitrifying organisms respond to inorganic carbon (IC) conditions that could be encountered in engineered partially nitrifying systems, we investigated the response of one of the most extensively studied model ammonia oxidizing bacteria, Nitrosomonas europaea (ATCC19718), to three IC availability conditions: excess gaseous and excess ionic IC supply (40× stoichiometric requirement), excess gaseous IC supply (4× stoichiometric requirement in gaseous form only), and limiting IC supply (0.25× stoichiometric requirement). We found that, when switching from excess gaseous and excess ionic IC supply to excess gaseous IC supply, N. europaea chemostat cultures demonstrated an acclimation period that was characterized by transient decreases in the ammonia removal efficiency and transient peaks in the specific oxygen uptake rate. Limiting IC supply led to permanent reactor failures (characterized by biomass washout and failure of ammonia removal) that were preceded by similar decreases in the ammonia removal efficiency and peaks in the specific oxygen uptake rate. Notably, both excess gaseous IC supply and limiting IC supply elicited a previously undocumented increase in nitric and nitrous oxide emissions. Further, gene expression patterns suggested that excess gaseous IC supply and limiting IC supply led to consistent up-regulation of ammonia respiration genes and carbon assimilation genes. Under these conditions, interrogation of the N. europaea proteome revealed increased levels of carbon fixation and transport proteins and decreased levels of ammonia oxidation proteins (active in energy synthesis pathways). Together, the results indicated that N. europaea mobilized enhanced IC scavenging pathways for biosynthesis and turned down respiratory pathways for energy synthesis, when challenged with excess gaseous IC supply and limiting IC supply.
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© 2014 American Chemical Society.