Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 104, Issue 4, pp 489–497 | Cite as

Cell biology of unique anammox bacteria that contain an energy conserving prokaryotic organelle

  • Laura van NiftrikEmail author
Original Paper


Anammox bacteria obtain their energy for growth from the anaerobic oxidation of ammonium with nitrite to dinitrogen gas. This property has made anammox bacteria very valuable for industry where they are applied for the removal of nitrogen compounds from industrial and domestic wastewaters. Anammox bacteria are also important in nature where they contribute significantly to oceanic nitrogen loss. Further, anammox bacteria have similarities to both Archaea and Eukarya, making them extremely interesting from a cell biological perspective. The anammox cell does not conform to the typical prokaryotic cell plan: single bilayer membranes divide the anammox cell into three distinct cellular compartments that possibly also have distinct cellular functions. The innermost and largest compartment, the anammoxosome, is the location of the energy metabolism. The middle compartment, the riboplasm, contains the nucleoid and ribosomes and thus has a genetic, information processing function. Finally, the outermost compartment, the paryphoplasm, has an as yet unknown function. In addition, anammox bacteria are proposed to have an atypical cell wall devoid of both peptidoglycan and a typical outer membrane. Here, I review the current knowledge on the cell biology of this enigmatic group of bacteria.


Anammox bacteria Anaerobic ammonium oxidation Anammoxosome Cell compartmentalization 



I would like to thank our past and present co-workers at the department of Microbiology and all of our (inter)national collaborators and granting agencies. Further, I would specifically like to thank Sarah Neumann, Muriel van Teeseling, Huub Op den Camp, Boran Kartal, Jan Keltjens and Mike Jetten for discussions. LvN is supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (VENI Grant Number 863.09.009).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyInstitute for Water & Wetland Research, Faculty of Science, Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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