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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012 Sep;76(3):585-96. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.05025-11.

Anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing bacteria: unique microorganisms with exceptional properties.

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Department of Microbiology, Institute for Water & Wetland Research, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria defy many microbiological concepts and share numerous properties with both eukaryotes and archaea. Among their most intriguing characteristics are their compartmentalized cell plan and archaeon-like cell wall. Here we review our current knowledge about anammox cell biology. The anammox cell is divided into three separate compartments by bilayer membranes. The anammox cell consists of (from outside to inside) the cell wall, paryphoplasm, riboplasm, and anammoxosome. Not much is known about the composition or function of both the anammox cell wall and the paryphoplasm compartment. The cell wall is proposed to be proteinaceous and to lack both peptidoglycan and an outer membrane typical of Gram-negative bacteria. The function of the paryphoplasm is unknown, but it contains the cell division ring. The riboplasm resembles the standard cytoplasmic compartment of other bacteria; it contains ribosomes and the nucleoid. The anammoxosome occupies most of the cell volume and is a so-called "prokaryotic organelle" analogous to the eukaryotic mitochondrion. This is the site where the anammox reaction takes place, coupled over the curved anammoxosome membrane, possibly giving rise to a proton motive force and subsequent ATP synthesis. With these unique properties, anammox bacteria are food for thought concerning the early evolution of the domains Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya.

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