Comparative analysis of archaeal 16S rRNA and amoA genes to estimate the abundance and diversity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in marine sediments
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Considering their abundance and broad distribution, non-extremophilic Crenarchaeota are likely to play important roles in global organic and inorganic matter cycles. The diversity and abundance of archaeal 16S rRNA and putative ammonia monooxygenase α-subunit (amoA) genes were comparatively analyzed to study genetic potential for nitrification of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in the surface layers (0–1 cm) of four marine sediments of the East Sea, Korea. After analysis of a 16S rRNA gene clone library, we found various archaeal groups that include the crenarchaeotal group (CG) I.1a (54.8%) and CG I.1b (5.8%), both of which are known to harbor ammonia oxidizers. Notably, the 16S rRNA gene of CG I.1b has only previously been observed in terrestrial environments. The 16S rRNA gene sequence data revealed a distinct difference in archaeal community among sites of marine sediments. Most of the obtained amoA sequences were not closely related to those of the clones retrieved from estuarine sediments and marine water columns. Furthermore, clades of unique amoA sequences were likely to cluster according to sampling sites. Using real-time PCR, quantitative analysis of amoA copy numbers showed that the copy numbers of archaeal amoA ranged from 1.1 × 107 to 4.9 × 107 per gram of sediment and were more numerous than those of bacterial amoA, with ratios ranging from 11 to 28. In conclusion, diverse CG I.1a and CG I.1b AOA inhabit surface layers of marine sediments and AOA, and especially, CG I.1a are more numerous than other ammonia-oxidizing bacteria.