[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the practice of composting animal wastes for use as biofertilizers has increased in recent years, little is known about the microorganisms responsible for the nitrogen transformations which occur in compost and during the composting process. Ammonia is the principle available nitrogenous compound in composting material, and the conversion of this compound to nitrite in the environment by chemolithotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria is an essential step in nitrogen cycling. Therefore, the distribution of ammonia-oxidizing members of the β subdivision of the class Proteobacteria in a variety of composting materials was assessed by amplifying 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and 16S rRNA by PCR and reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR), respectively. The PCR and RT-PCR products were separated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and were identified by hybridization with a hierarchical set of oligonucleotide probes designed to detect ammonia oxidizer-like sequence clusters in the genera Nitrosospira and Nitrosomonas. Ammonia oxidizer-like 16S rDNA was detected in almost all of the materials tested, including industrial and experimental composts, manure, and commercial biofertilizers. A comparison of the DGGE and hybridization results after specific PCR and RT-PCR suggested that not all of the different ammonia oxidizer groups detected in compost are equally active. amoA, the gene encoding the active-site-containing subunit of ammonia monooxygenase, was also targeted by PCR, and template concentrations were estimated by competitive PCR. Detection of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in the composts tested suggested that such materials may not be biologically inert with respect to nitrification and that the fate of nitrogen during composting and compost storage may be affected by the presence of these organisms.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 03/1999; 65(2). · 3.67 Impact Factor