In order to determine whether the metabolic state of Geobacteraceae involved in bioremediation of subsurface sediments might be inferred from levels of mRNA for key genes, in situ expression of nifD, a highly conserved gene involved in nitrogen fixation, was investigated. When Geobacter sulfurreducens was grown without a source of fixed nitrogen in chemostats with acetate provided as the limiting electron donor and Fe(III) as the electron acceptor, levels of nifD transcripts were 4 to 5 orders of magnitude higher than in chemostat cultures provided with ammonium. In contrast, the number of transcripts of recA and the 16S rRNA gene were slightly lower in the absence of ammonium. The addition of acetate to organic- and nitrogen-poor subsurface sediments stimulated the growth of Geobacteraceae and Fe(III) reduction, as well as the expression of nifD in Geobacteraceae. Levels of nifD transcripts in Geobacteraceae decreased more than 100-fold within 2 days after the addition of 100 microM ammonium, while levels of recA and total bacterial 16S rRNA in Geobacteraceae remained relatively constant. Ammonium amendments had no effect on rates of Fe(III) reduction in acetate-amended sediments or toluene degradation in petroleum-contaminated sediments, suggesting that other factors, such as the rate that Geobacteraceae could access Fe(III) oxides, limited Fe(III) reduction. These results demonstrate that it is possible to monitor one aspect of the in situ metabolic state of Geobacteraceae species in subsurface sediments via analysis of mRNA levels, which is the first step toward a more global analysis of in situ gene expression related to nutrient status and stress response during bioremediation by Geobacteraceae.