Denitrifying Bacteria

Denitrifying Meaning

Let us know the denitrifying meaning before going through the denitrifying bacteria. The process to remove nitrates or nitrites from the soil, water, and air by chemical reduction. Denitrifying bacteria are the microorganisms whose action results in the conversion of nitrates in the soil to free atmospheric nitrogen. Some denitrifiers involved in denitrification are Thiobacillus denitrificans, Micrococcus denitrificans, and some species of Serratia, Pseudomonas, and Achromobacter.


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The pseudomonas aeruginosa is a species name of denitrifying bacteria, which carries out denitrification in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic conditions) like in swampy or waterlogged soils reduces the amount of fixed nitrogen by up to 50 per cent.


Examples of the Nitrifying and Denitrifying Bacteria 

An example of nitrifying bacteria is Nitrosomonas and the example of denitrifying bacteria is pseudomonas. 


Denitrification Mechanism 

Denitrifying bacteria use denitrification to generate ATP, and the most common denitrification process is given  below, with the nitrogen oxides being converted back to gaseous nitrogen:

2 NO3 + 10 e + 12 H+ → N2 + 6 H2O

It results in one molecule of nitrogen and six molecules of water.

Denitrifying bacteria are part of the nitrogen cycle, and it consists of sending Nitrogen back to the atmosphere. The above reaction represents the half-reaction of the process of denitrification. This reaction can be further classified into two different half-reactions and each reaction requires a specific enzyme. The transformation from nitrate to nitrite is performed by the enzyme nitrate reductase (Nar).

NO3 + 2 H+ + 2 e → NO2 + H2O.

Nitrite reductase (Nir) converts nitrite into nitric oxide.

2 NO2 + 4 H+ + 2 e → 2 NO + 2 H2O.

Then, Nitric oxide reductase (Nor) converts nitric oxide into nitrous oxide.

2 NO + 2 H+ + 2 e → N2O + H2O.

Further, Nitrous oxide reductase (Nos) terminates the reaction by converting nitrous oxide into dinitrogen.

N2O + 2 H+ + 2 e → N2 + H2O.

It is very important to notice that any of the products produced at any step can be exchanged with the soil environment. 


Role of Denitrifying Bacteria 

Denitrifying bacteria play an important role in the oxidation of methane (where methane is converted into carbon dioxide, water, and energy) in deep freshwater bodies. This is very important because methane is the second most significant pollutant of the greenhouse, and it has a global warming potential of 25 times more than carbon dioxide. Freshwaters are the major contributors to methane emission globally.   

To understand it, a study was conducted on Europe's lakes and they found that the anaerobic oxidation is coupled to denitrification. It is also referred to as nitrate or nitrite dependent anaerobic methane oxidation (n - damo) and it is a dominant sink of methane in deep lakes. For a long period, it was believed that the mitigation of methane emission was only due to aerobic methanotrophic bacteria. The oxidation of methane takes place in the anoxic or oxygen-depleted zones of freshwater bodies. In the case of this experiment, this is carried out by M. oxyfera-like bacteria. This bacteria is similar to Candidatus Methylomirabilis Oxyfera, which acts as a denitrifying methanotroph. 

The result came out from the study of Constance lake, that nitrate was depleted in the water at the same length as the methane. This suggests that methane oxidation was coupled with denitrification. In this experiment M oxyfera - like bacteria carried out the methane oxidation because their abundance peaked at the same depth. Where the methane and nitrite profile met. N - damo process is very significant because it helps in decreasing the emission of methane from deep freshwater bodies. It also helps in turning nitrates into nitrogen gas, reducing excess nitrates.


Role of Nitrifier Denitrification 

Nitrifier denitrification serves as a path of nitrification in which ammonia (NH3) is oxidized to nitrite (NO2). And further by the reduction of NO2 to nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O) and molecular nitrogen (N2). All these transformations are carried out by autotrophic nitrifiers.


The Function of Denitrifying Bacteria 

The main function of denitrifying bacteria give out nitrogen gas by converting the nitrate and nitrite, nitrogen gas re-enters into the atmosphere with the help of this process. Nitrogen further enters the ocean through fertilizers, where it enters into the marine food web.


Use of Denitrifying Bacteria for Wastewater Treatment

Denitrification bacteria is one of the important components to treat wastewater. As wastewater mainly contains a large amount of nitrogen, which might be in the form of ammonium or nitrate. Nitrogen could be damaging to human health and the ecological process if it is not treated. There are many physical, chemical and biological methods to remove nitrogenous compounds from polluted water. One example of the process is ammonia-oxidizing bacteria having a metabolic feature which in a combination with other nitrogen-cycling metabolic activities like nitrite oxidation and denitrification, to remove nitrogen from wastewater in activated sludge. Since denitrifying bacteria are heterotrophic in nature, an organic carbon source is supplied to the bacteria in an anoxic basin. When there is no oxygen available, denitrifying bacteria use the oxygen present in the nitrate to oxidize the carbon which leads to the formation of nitrogen gas from nitrate, and then nitrogen bubbles up out of the wastewater.


Do You Know?

What would happen if denitrification is stopped? It is a process of conversion of nitrates and nitrites into atmospheric nitrogen. If the denitrification process is stopped nitrogen will not get recycled, so it won’t get returned to the atmosphere. All the nitrogen will bond up and no extra nitrogen will be available for use in the process. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Where are Denitrifying Bacteria Found?

Answer. It is found in almost 50 genres with over 125 different species and it is estimated to represent ten to fifteen per cent of the total bacterial population in water, soil and sediments. Denitrifying includes several species, some among them are pseudomonas, Alkaligenes, Ballicus and others. 

2. Is Pseudomonas Denitrification Bacteria?

Answer.  Yes, pseudomonas is denitrification bacteria, P. stutzeri, which belongs to the genus Pseudomonas, is widely found in soil, freshwater, oceans and animals. It is an aerobic Gram-negative bacterium and a type of denitrifying bacterium but recently it is now recognized to be highly adapted to anaerobic conditions.

3. Why Do Plants and Animals Need Nitrogen?

Answer. Nitrogen is an essential thing to survive on earth like plants and animals like oxygen. It is required by plants and animals to build amino acids in the proteins, which are the building block of life. Oxygen can be absorbed directly from the air by animals and plants but this thing is not possible in the case of nitrogen.