Chemolithoautotrophic AOB (ammonia-oxidizing bacteria) form a crucial component in microbial nitrogen cycling in both natural and engineered systems. Under specific conditions, including transitions from anoxic to oxic conditions and/or excessive ammonia loading, and the presence of high nitrite (NO2) concentrations, these bacteria are also documented to produce nitric oxide (NO) and nitrous oxide (N2O) gases. Essentially, ammonia oxidation in the presence of non-limiting substrate concentrations (ammonia and O2) is associated with N2O production. An exceptional scenario that leads to such conditions is the periodical switch between anoxic and oxic conditions, which is rather common in engineered nitrogen-removal systems. In particular, the recovery from, rather than imposition of, anoxic conditions has been demonstrated to result in N2O production. However, applied engineering perspectives, so far, have largely ignored the contribution of nitrification to N2O emissions in greenhouse gas inventories from wastewater-treatment plants. Recent field-scale measurements have revealed that nitrification-related N2O emissions are generally far higher than emissions assigned to heterotrophic denitrification. In the present paper, the metabolic pathways, which could potentially contribute to NO and N2O production by AOB have been conceptually reconstructed under conditions especially relevant to engineered nitrogen-removal systems. Taken together, the reconstructed pathways, field- and laboratory-scale results suggest that engineering designs that achieve low effluent aqueous nitrogen concentrations also minimize gaseous nitrogen emissions.

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