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Forskningsartikel2024Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Phylogenetics and environmental distribution of nitric oxide-forming nitrite reductases reveal their distinct functional and ecological roles

Pold, Grace; Bonilla-Rosso, German; Saghai, Aurelien; Strous, Marc; Jones, Christopher M.; Hallin, Sara


The two evolutionarily unrelated nitric oxide-producing nitrite reductases, NirK and NirS, are best known for their redundant role in denitrification. They are also often found in organisms that do not perform denitrification. To assess the functional roles of the two enzymes and to address the sequence and structural variation within each, we reconstructed robust phylogenies of both proteins with sequences recovered from 6973 isolate and metagenome-assembled genomes and identified 32 well-supported clades of structurally distinct protein lineages. We then inferred the potential niche of each clade by considering other functional genes of the organisms carrying them as well as the relative abundances of each nir gene in 4082 environmental metagenomes across diverse aquatic, terrestrial, host-associated, and engineered biomes. We demonstrate that Nir phylogenies recapitulate ecology distinctly from the corresponding organismal phylogeny. While some clades of the nitrite reductase were equally prevalent across biomes, others had more restricted ranges. Nitrifiers make up a sizeable proportion of the nitrite-reducing community, especially for NirK in marine waters and dry soils. Furthermore, the two reductases showed distinct associations with genes involved in oxidizing and reducing other compounds, indicating that the NirS and NirK activities may be linked to different elemental cycles. Accordingly, the relative abundance and diversity of NirS versus NirK vary between biomes. Our results show the divergent ecological roles NirK and NirS-encoding organisms may play in the environment and provide a phylogenetic framework to distinguish the traits associated with organisms encoding the different lineages of nitrite reductases.


denitrification; nitrite reductase; metagenomes; comparative genomics; phylogenetics

Publicerad i

ISME Communications
2024, Volym: 4, nummer: 1, artikelnummer: ycae020