This organism oxidizes ammonia into nitrite as a metabolic process, known as nitritation (a step of nitrification). Nitrosomonas are useful in a polluted water and waste treatment technique known as bioremediation. They are important in the nitrogen cycle as they increase the bioavailability of nitrogen to plants whilst limiting carbon fixation. The genus is found in soil, freshwater, and on building surfaces, especially in areas that contains high levels of nitrogen compounds.
The organism has power-generating membranes, which form long, thin tubes inside the cell. These use electrons from the oxidation of ammonia to produce energy. It obtains the carbon it requires from the atmosphere via carbon fixation, which converts gaseous carbon dioxide into carbon bound in organic molecules.
Unlike plants, which fix carbon into sugars through energy gained through the process of photosynthesis, Nitrosomonas use energy gained through the oxidation of ammonia to fix gaseous carbon dioxide into organic molecules. Nitrosomonas must consume large amounts of ammonia before cell division can occur, and the process of cell division may take up to several days. This microbe is photophobic, and will generate a biofilm matrix, or form clumps with other microbes, to avoid light.
The species Nitrosomonas europaea has been identified as being able to degrade a variety of halogenated compounds including trichloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride. Some Nitrosomonas species possess the enzyme urease, which catalyzes the conversion of the urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide. N. europaea, as well as populations of soil-dwelling ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), have been shown to assimilate the carbon dioxide released by the reaction to make biomass via the Calvin cycle, and harvest energy by oxidizing ammonia (the other product of urease) to nitrite. This feature may explain enhanced growth of AOB in the presence of urea in acidic environments.
Some sources regard Nitrobacteraceae to be the family of the genus Nicosomonas.
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