Archaea have been detected recently as a major and often dominant component of the microbial communities performing ammonia oxidation in terrestrial and marine environments. In a molecular survey of archaeal ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) genes in terrestrial hot springs of Iceland and Kamchatka, the amoA gene encoding the α-subunit of AMO was detected in a total of 14 hot springs out of the 22 investigated. Most of these amoA-positive hot springs had temperatures between 82 and 97 °C and pH range between 2.5 and 7. In phylogenetic analyses, these amoA genes formed three independent lineages within the known sequence clusters of marine or soil origin. Furthermore, in situ gross nitrification rates in Icelandic hot springs were estimated by the pool dilution technique directly on site. At temperatures above 80 °C, between 56 and 159 μmol NO3 L−1 mud per day was produced. Furthermore, addition of ammonium to the hot spring samples before incubation yielded a more than twofold higher potential nitrification rate, indicating that the process was limited by ammonia supply. Our data provide evidence for an active role of archaea in nitrification of hot springs in a wide range of pH values and at a high temperature.

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