Nitric oxide (NO) is a ubiquitous biomolecule that is known as a signaling compound in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. In addition, NO is involved in all conversions of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle: denitrification, nitrification, and the anaerobic oxidation of ammonium (Anammox). Until now, NO has not been measured with high spatial resolution within microbial communities, such as biofilms, sediments, aggregates, or microbial mats, because the available sensors are not robust enough and their spatial resolution is insufficient. Here we describe the fabrication and application of a novel Clark-type NO microsensor with an internal reference electrode and a guard anode. The NO microsensor has a spatial resolution of 60-80 microm, a sensitivity of 2 pA microM-1, and a detection limit of approximately 30 nM. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) was found to be a major interfering compound for the electrochemical detection of NO. The application of the novel NO microsensor to nitrifying biofilms and marine sediments revealed dynamic NO concentration profiles with peaks in the oxic parts of the samples. The local concentrations suggested that NO may be an important bioactive compound in natural environments. The consumption and production of NO occurs in separate regions of stratified microbial communities and indicates that it is linked to distinct biogeochemical cycles.
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