Nitrospina bacteria in a rocky intertidal habitat (Quintay Bay, central Chile)

Daniela V. Yepsen, Héctor A. Levipan, Verónica Molina

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Nitrospina bacteria are among the most important nitrite oxidizers in coastal and open-ocean environments, but the relevance of the genus contrasts with the scarceness of information on their ecophysiology and habitat range. Thus far, Nitrospina bacteria have been the only nitrite oxidizers detected at high abundance in Chilean coastal waters. These levels are often higher than at other latitudes. In this study, the abundance of 16S-rRNA gene transcripts of Nitrospina (hereafter just transcripts) was measured by reverse transcription quantitative PCR in a rocky intertidal gradient and compared with the nearshore counterpart off central Chile (~33°S). Rocky pond transcripts were also compared with the taxonomic composition of the macrobiota and bacterioplankton (by 16S-rRNA gene-based T-RFLP) in the intertidal gradient. Transcripts increased from warmer, saltier, and low-nitrite ponds in the upper intertidal zone (19.5 ± 1.6°C, 39.0 ± 1.0 psu, 0.98 ± 0.17 μmol/L) toward cooler, less salty, and high-nitrite ponds (17.8 ± 2.6°C, 37.7 ± 0.82 psu, 1.23 ± 0.21 μmol/L) from middle and low zones. These varied from ~1,000 up to 62,800 transcripts. This increasing trend in the number of transcripts toward the lower zone was positively associated with the Shannon's diversity index for the macrobiota (r =.81, p <.01). Moreover, an important increase in the average number of transcripts was observed in ponds with a greater number of fish in the upper (7,846 transcripts during 2013) and lower zones (62,800 transcripts during 2015). Altogether, intertidal and nearshore transcripts were significantly correlated with nitrite concentrations (r =.804, p ˂.01); rocky pond transcripts outnumbered nearshore ones by almost two orders of magnitude. In summary, rocky ponds favored both the presence and activity of Nitrospina bacteria that are tolerant to environmental stress. This in turn was positively influenced by the presence of ammonia- or urea-producing macrobiota.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00646
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • 16S-rRNA gene transcript
  • intertidal bacteria
  • nitrite oxidation
  • Nitrospina
  • rocky intertidal habitat
  • stress tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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