NitrospiraDid we forget anything? Let us know

Genus nameNitrospira
Alternative names
NCBI taxonomy ID1234

Taxonomy (MiDAS 2.0)


16S gene copy number1-3

 In situOther
Hydrophobic cell surface12

Three populations of nitrifying bacteria, detected simultaneously in a nitrifying sequencing batch biofilm reactor with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) of the Nitrosomonas oligotropha lineage detected by probe Cluster6a192 (Cy5; blue), nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) of Nitrospira sublineage I probe Ntspa1431 (Cy3; red), NOB of Nitrospira sublineage II probe Ntspa1151 (FLUOS; green). Bar = 10 mm. - Source:1

Aerobic heterotroph
Nitrite reduction
Proteins/Amino acids

POSNEGVariableNot assessed


Nitrospira are aerobic chemolithoautotrophic bacteria and considered to be the most common and abundant NOB in wastewater treatment systems 5. They often occur in close association with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria or archaea. In ‘reciprocal feeding’ interactions, Nitrospira can also provide ammonia oxidizers with ammonia released from urea or cyanate, which is further nitrified 16. CO2 is fixed by the reductive citric acid cycle 13. Organics have been shown to enhance growth on nitrite 9, and pyruvate is assimilated in situ 5, but heterotrophic growth has not been observed. Some strains can utilize hydrogen and formate using oxygen or nitrate as terminal electron acceptor. Energy is produced concurrently with aerobic nitrite oxidiation 16. Considered to be K-strategists 10.

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Distribution plant/process configuration

Nitrite concentrations are suggested to select for Nitrospira sub-lineages, with sub-lineage I selected for over II at relatively higher levels. Where they co-exist, sub-lineage I were located in significantly closer proximity to the AOB 11.


At least six phylogenetic sublineages of Nitrospira exist. Lineage II is the most widely distributed in both natural and engineered ecosystems 13. All currently known comammox organisms belong to Nitrospira lineage II 16. Sublineages I ("N. moscoviensis-related") and II (N. defluvii-related) are commonly observed in activated sludge 5.

FISH probes

Genus = Ntspa662 5; lineage I = Ntspa1431; lineage II= Ntspa1151 11


 In situOther
Aerobic Heterotroph56789
Nitrite Reduction3
Sulfate Reduction
Short-chain Fatty Acids53
Proteins/Amino Acids3

Abundance Information

 10 % percentileMedian90 % percentile
Activated Sludge00.41.6

Predominant InActivated sludge


[1] Nielsen PH, Daims H, and Lemmer, H (2009) FISH Handbook for Biological Wastewater Treatment: Identification and quantification of microorganisms in activated sludge and biofilms by FISH. IWA Publishing Company - Nielsen Et Al 2009 -

[2] - NCBI genome database, NCBI id 1234 -

[3] Lücker, Wagner, Maixner, Pelletier, Koch, Vacherie, et al. (2010): A Nitrospira metagenome illuminates the physiology and evolution of globally important nitrite-oxidizing bacteria. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107 (30): 13479-84. doi:10.1073/pnas.1003860107

[4] Koch, Galushko, Albertsen, Schintlmeister, Gruber-Dorninger, Lücker, et al. (2014): Growth of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria by aerobic hydrogen oxidation. Science 345 (6200): 1052-4. doi:10.1126/science.1256985

[5] Daims, Nielsen, Nielsen, Schleifer, Wagner (2001): In situ characterization of Nitrospira-like nitrite-oxidizing bacteria active in wastewater treatment plants. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67 (11): 5273-84. doi:10.1128/AEM.67.11.5273-5284.2001

[6] Lebedeva, Alawi, Maixner, Jozsa, Daims, Spieck, et al. (2008): Physiological and phylogenetic characterization of a novel lithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacterium, 'Candidatus Nitrospira bockiana'. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 58 (Pt 1): 242-50. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.65379-0

[7] Lebedeva, Off, Zumbrägel, Kruse, Shagzhina, Lücker, et al. (2011): Isolation and characterization of a moderately thermophilic nitrite-oxidizing bacterium from a geothermal spring. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 75 (2): 195-204. doi:10.1111/j.1574-6941.2010.01006.x

[8] Ehrich, Behrens, Lebedeva, Ludwig, Bock (1995): A new obligately chemolithoautotrophic, nitrite-oxidizing bacterium, Nitrospira moscoviensis sp. nov. and its phylogenetic relationship. Arch. Microbiol. 164 (1): 16-23.

[9] Watson, S.W., Bock, E., Valois, F.W., Waterbury, J.B., Schlosser, U. (1986) Nitrospira marina gen. Nov. Sp. Nov.: a chemolithotrophic nitrite-oxidising bacterium. Arch. Microbiol. 144: 1-7 - Watson Et Al -

[10] Schramm, de Beer, van den Heuvel, Ottengraf, Amann (1999): Microscale distribution of populations and activities of Nitrosospira and Nitrospira spp. along a macroscale gradient in a nitrifying bioreactor: quantification by in situ hybridization and the use of microsensors. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 65 (8): 3690-6.

[11] Maixner, Noguera, Anneser, Stoecker, Wegl, Wagner, et al. (2006): Nitrite concentration influences the population structure of Nitrospira-like bacteria. Environ. Microbiol. 8 (8): 1487-95. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2006.01033.x

[12] Chao, Guo, Fang, Zhang (2014): Hydrophobicity of diverse bacterial populations in activated sludge and biofilm revealed by microbial adhesion to hydrocarbons assay and high-throughput sequencing. Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces 114 (): 379-85. doi:10.1016/j.colsurfb.2013.10.028

[13] Daims, Lebedeva, Pjevac, Han, Herbold, Albertsen, et al. (2015): Complete nitrification by Nitrospira bacteria. Nature 528 (7583): 504-9. doi:10.1038/nature16461

[14] van Kessel, Speth, Albertsen, Nielsen, Op den Camp, Kartal, et al. (2015): Complete nitrification by a single microorganism. Nature 528 (7583): 555-9. doi:10.1038/nature16459

[15] Gieseke, Nielsen, Amann, Nielsen, de Beer (2005): In situ substrate conversion and assimilation by nitrifying bacteria in a model biofilm. Environ. Microbiol. 7 (9): 1392-404. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2005.00826.x

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