In their natural habitats, microorganisms are often exposed to periods of starvation if their substrates for energy generation or other nutrients are limiting. Many microorganisms have developed strategies to adapt to fluctuating nutrients and long-term starvation. In the environment, ammonia oxidizers have to compete with many different organisms for ammonium and are often exposed to long periods of ammonium starvation. We investigated the effect of ammonium starvation on ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) enriched from freshwater lake sediments. Both AOA and AOB were able to recover even after almost two months of starvation; however, the recovery time differed. AOA and AOB retained their 16S rRNA (ribosomes) throughout the complete starvation period. The AOA retained also a small portion of the mRNA of the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA
) for the complete starvation period. However, after 10 days, no amoA
mRNA was detected anymore in the AOB. These results indicate that AOA and AOB are able to survive longer periods of starvation, but might utilize different strategies.
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