Aerobic biological ammonia oxidation is carried out by two groups of microorganisms, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and the recently discovered ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Here we present a study using cultivation-based methods to investigate the differences in growth of three AOA cultures and one AOB culture enriched from freshwater environments. The strain in the enriched AOA culture belong to thaumarchaeal group I.1a, with the strain in one enrichment culture having the highest identity with "Candidatus Nitrosoarchaeum koreensis" and the strains in the other two representing a new genus of AOA. The AOB strain in the enrichment culture was also obtained from freshwater and had the highest identity to AOB from the Nitrosomonas oligotropha group (Nitrosomonas cluster 6a). We investigated the influence of ammonium, oxygen, pH, and light on the growth of AOA and AOB. The growth rates of the AOB increased with increasing ammonium concentrations, while the growth rates of the AOA decreased slightly. Increasing oxygen concentrations led to an increase in the growth rate of the AOB, while the growth rates of AOA were almost oxygen insensitive. Light exposure (white and blue wavelengths) inhibited the growth of AOA completely, and the AOA did not recover when transferred to the dark. AOB were also inhibited by blue light; however, growth recovered immediately after transfer to the dark. Our results show that the tested AOB have a competitive advantage over the tested AOA under most conditions investigated. Further experiments will elucidate the niches of AOA and AOB in more detail.
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