DOE Joint Genome Institute and Oregon State University Sequence Key Soil Microorganism in Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles


This microbe, Nitrosomonas europaea (N. europaea), derives all of the energy it needs to grow from the oxidation of ammonia to nitrate. In so doing, N. europaea converts CO2 to cell biomass. This type of carbon sequestration may lead to biologically-based technologies to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As an editorial in the Journal of Bacteriology, May 2003, points out, the use of ammonia, CO2 and mineral salts to make biomass (more N. europaea cells) essentially means that this microbe makes itself from “almost nothing.” Additionally, N. europaea is highly dependent on environmental iron and its genome seems to contain genes that confer upon it the capacity to “steal” iron from surrounding microbes. Consistent with many previously sequenced microbes, about 30 percent of the genetic information in its genome mediates unknown functions in the microbe’s biology.