Environmental Factors Affecting Ammonium Oxidation Under Iron Reducing Conditions

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Shan Huang1, Melany Ruiz-Urigüen1 and Peter R Jaffe2, (1)Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States, (2)Princeton Univ, Princeton, NJ, United States
Ammonium (NH4+) oxidation coupled to iron (Fe) reduction in the absence of oxygen and nitrate/nitrite (NO3-/NO2-) has been reported by several investigators and referred to as Feammox. Feammox is a biological reaction, where Fe(III) is the electron acceptor, which is reduced to Fe(II), and NH4+ is the electron donor, which is oxidized to NO2-.

Through a 180-day anaerobic incubation experiment, and using PCR-DGGE, 454-pyosequecing and qPCR analysis, we have shown that an Acidimicrobiaceae bacterium A6, a previously unreported species in the Acidimicrobiaceae family, might be either responsible or plays a key role in the Feammox process, We have enriched these Feammox bacteria (65.8% in terms of cell numbers) in a membrane reactor, and isolated the pure Acidimicrobiaceae bacterium A6 strain in an autotrophic medium.

In samples collected and then incubated from a series of local wetland-, upland-, as well as storm-water detention pond-sediments, Feammox activity was only detected in acidic soil environments that contain Fe oxides. Using primers we developed for this purpose, Acidimicrobiaceae bacterium A6 was detected in all incubations where Feammox was observed. Anaerobic incubations of Feammox enrichment cultures adjusted to different pH, revealed that the optimal pH for Feammox is 4 ~ 5, and the reaction does not proceed when pH > 7. Feammox was still proceeding at pH as low as 2. In Feammox culture amended with different Fe(III) sources, Feammox reaction proceeded only when Fe oxides (ferrihydrite or goethite ) were supplied, whereas samples incubated with ferric chloride or ferric citrate showed no measurable NH4+ oxidation.

Furthermore, we have also determined from incubation experiments conducted with a temperature gradient (10 ~ 35℃), that the Feammox process was active when the temperature is above 15℃, and the optimal temperature is 20℃. Incubations of enrichment culture with 79% Feammox bacteria appeared to remove circa 8% more NH4+ at 20ºC than at 35ºC. This is in contrast to anammox, another anaerobic ammonium oxidation pathway, for which optimal NH4+ oxidation is at temperatures ~ 30ºC. Hence, a Feammox-based process is an attractive candidate for wastewater treatment that could result in further energy savings, by requiring no aeration or heating of the wastewater in temperate climates.