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The ecological dichotomy of ammonia-oxidizing archaea and bacteria in the hyper-arid soils of the Antarctic Dry Valleys

The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are considered to be one of the most physically and chemically extreme terrestrial environments on the Earth. However, little is known about the organisms involved in nitrogen transformations in these environments. In this study, we investigated the diversity and abundance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) in four McMurdo Dry Valleys with highly variable soil geochemical properties and climatic conditions: Miers Valley, Upper Wright Valley, Beacon Valley and Battleship Promontory. The bacterial communities of these four Dry Valleys have been examined previously, and the results suggested that the extremely localized bacterial diversities are likely driven by the disparate physicochemical conditions associated with these locations. Here we showed that AOB and AOA amoA gene diversity was generally low; only four AOA and three AOB operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified from a total of 420 AOA and AOB amoA clones. Quantitative PCR analysis of amoA genes revealed clear differences in the relative abundances of AOA and AOB amoA genes among samples from the four dry valleys. Although AOB amoA gene dominated the ammonia-oxidizing community in soils from Miers Valley and Battleship Promontory, AOA amoA gene were more abundant in samples from Upper Wright and Beacon Valleys, where the environmental conditions are considerably harsher (e.g., extremely low soil C/N ratios and much higher soil electrical conductivity). Correlations between environmental variables and amoA genes copy numbers, as examined by redundancy analysis (RDA), revealed that higher AOA/AOB ratios were closely related to soils with high salts and Cu contents and low pH. Our findings hint at a dichotomized distribution of AOA and AOB within the Dry Valleys, potentially driven by environmental constraints.
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Magalhães, C. M., Machado, A., Frank-Fahle, B., Lee, C. K.-W., & Cary, S. C. (2014). The ecological dichotomy of ammonia-oxidizing archaea and bacteria in the hyper-arid soils of the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5, article no. 515. http://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00515
© 2014 the authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License