Nitrifier genomics and evolution of the nitrogen cycle

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2008 Jan;278(2):146-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2007.00970.x. Epub 2007 Nov 20.


Advances in technology have tremendously increased high throughput whole genome-sequencing efforts, many of which have included prokaryotes that facilitate processes in the extant nitrogen cycle. Molecular genetic and evolutionary analyses of these genomes paired with advances in postgenomics, biochemical and physiological experimentation have enabled scientists to reevaluate existing geochemical and oceanographic data for improved characterization of the extant nitrogen cycle as well as its evolution since the primordial era of planet Earth. Based on the literature and extensive new data relevant to aerobic and anaerobic ammonia oxidation (ANAMMOX), the natural history of the nitrogen-cycle has been redrawn with emphasis on the early roles of incomplete denitrification and ammonification as driving forces for emergence of ANAMMOX as the foundation for a complete nitrogen cycle, and concluding with emergence of nitrification in the oxic era.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / chemistry
  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrates / chemistry
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / chemistry
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Nitrosomonas / genetics
  • Nitrosomonas / metabolism
  • Origin of Life
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism*


  • Nitrates
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrogen