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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jun;69(6):3549-60.

Molecular diversity of denitrifying genes in continental margin sediments within the oxygen-deficient zone off the Pacific coast of Mexico.

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Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA.


To understand the composition and structure of denitrifying communities in the oxygen-deficient zone off the Pacific coast of Mexico, the molecular diversity of nir genes from sediments obtained at four stations was examined by using a PCR-based cloning approach. A total of 50 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) for nirK and 82 OTUs for nirS were obtained from all samples. Forty-four of the nirS clones and 31 of the nirK clones were sequenced; the levels of similarity of the nirS clones were 52 to 92%, and the levels of similarity of the nirS clones were 50 to 99%. The percentages of overlapping OTUs between stations were 18 to 30% for nirS and 5 to 8% for nirK. Sequence analysis revealed that 26% of the nirS clones were related to the nirS genes of Alcaligenes faecalis (80 to 94% similar) and Pseudomonas stutzeri (80 to 99%), whereas 3 to 31% of the nirK clones were closely related to the nirK genes of Pseudomonas sp. strain G-179 (98 to 99%), Bradyrhizobium japonicum (91%), Blastobacter denitrificans (83%), and Alcaligenes xylosoxidans (96%). The rest of the clones, however, were less than 80% similar to nirS and nirK sequences available in sequence databases. The results of a principal-component analysis (PCA) based on the percentage of OTUs and biogeochemical data indicated that the nitrate concentration and oxygen have an effect on the denitrifying communities. The communities at the stations in oxygen-deficient zones were more similar than the communities at the stations in the oxygenated zone. The denitrifying communities were more similar at the stations that were closer together and had similar nitrate levels. Also, the results of PCA based on biogeochemical properties suggest that geographic location and biogeochemical conditions, especially the nitrate and oxygen levels, appear to be the key factors that control the structure of denitrifying communities.

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