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Biochem Soc Trans. 2006 Feb;34(Pt 1):174-8.

Global impact and application of the anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria.

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Department of Microbiology, IWWR, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, NL-6525 ED, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


In the anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) process, ammonia is oxidized with nitrite as primary electron acceptor under strictly anoxic conditions. The reaction is catalysed by a specialized group of planctomycete-like bacteria. These anammox bacteria use a complex reaction mechanism involving hydrazine as an intermediate. The reactions are assumed to be carried out in a unique prokaryotic organelle, the anammoxosome. This organelle is surrounded by ladderane lipids, which make the organelle nearly impermeable to hydrazine and protons. The localization of the major anammox protein, hydrazine oxidoreductase, was determined via immunogold labelling to be inside the anammoxosome. The anammox bacteria have been detected in many marine and freshwater ecosystems and were estimated to contribute up to 50% of oceanic nitrogen loss. Furthermore, the anammox process is currently implemented in water treatment for the low-cost removal of ammonia from high-strength waste streams. Recent findings suggested that the anammox bacteria may also use organic acids to convert nitrate and nitrite into dinitrogen gas when ammonia is in short supply.

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