AskDefine | Define nitrification

Dictionary Definition



1 the chemical process in which a nitro group is added to an organic compound (or substituted for another group in an organic compound)
2 the oxidation of ammonium compounds in dead organic material into nitrates and nitrites by soil bacteria (making nitrogen available to plants)

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. the act of nitrifying


Extensive Definition

Nitrification is the biological oxidation of ammonia with oxygen into nitrite followed by the oxidation of these nitrites into nitrates. Degradation of ammonia to nitrite is usually the rate limiting step of nitrification. Nitrification is an important step in the nitrogen cycle in soil. This process was discovered by the Russian microbiologist, Sergei Winogradsky.
The oxidation of ammonia into nitrite is performed by two groups of organisms, ammonia oxidizing bacteria and ammonia oxidizing archaea. Ammonia oxidizing bacteria can be found among the β- and γ-proteobacteria . In soils the most studied ammonia oxidizing bacteria belong to the genera Nitrosomonas and Nitrosococcus. Although in soils ammonia oxidation occurs by both bacteria and archaea in harsher environments like oceans ammonia oxidation is dominated by archaea. The second step (oxidation of nitrite into nitrate) is (mainly) done by bacteria of the genus Nitrobacter. Both steps are producing energy to be coupled to ATP synthesis. Nitrifying organisms are chemoautotrophs, and use carbon dioxide as their carbon source for growth.
Nitrification also plays an important role in the removal of nitrogen from municipal wastewater. The conventional removal is nitrification, followed by denitrification. The cost of this process resides mainly in aeration (bringing oxygen in the reactor) and the addition of an external carbon source (e.g. methanol) for the denitrification.
In most environments both organisms are found together, yielding nitrate as the final product. It is possible however to design systems in which selectively nitrite is formed (the Sharon process).
Together with ammonification, nitrification forms a mineralization process which refers to the complete decomposition of organic material, with the release of available nitrogen compounds. This replenishes the nitrogen cycle.


Nitrification is a process of nitrogen compound oxidation (effectively, loss of electrons from the nitrogen atom to the oxygen atoms) :
  1. NH3 + O2 → NO2− + 3H+ + 2e−
  2. NO2− + H2O → NO3− + 2H+ + 2e−


  • Treusch, A.H., Leininger, S., Kletzin, A., Schuster, S.C., Klenk, H.P., and Schleper, C. (2005) Novel genes for nitrite reductase and Amo-related proteins indicate a role of uncultivated mesophilic crenarchaeota in nitrogen cycling. Environ Microbiol 7: 1985–1995
  • Purkhold, U., Pommerening-Roser, A., Juretschko, S.,Schmid, M.C., Koops, H.-P., and Wagner, M. (2000) Phylogeny of all recognized species of ammonia oxidizers based on comparative 16S rRNA and amoA sequence analysis: implications for molecular diversity surveys. Appl Environ Microbiol 66: 5368–5382
  • Wuchter, C., Abbas, B., Coolen, M.J.L., Herfort, L., van Bleijswijk, J., Timmers, P., et al. (2006) Archaeal nitrification in the ocean. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103: 12317–12322.

External links

nitrification in Asturian: Nitrificación
nitrification in German: Nitrifikation
nitrification in Spanish: Nitrificación
nitrification in French: Nitrification
nitrification in Italian: Nitratazione
nitrification in Hebrew: ניטריפיקציה
nitrification in Lithuanian: Nitrifikacija
nitrification in Dutch: Nitrificatie
nitrification in Japanese: 硝化作用
nitrification in Polish: Nitryfikacja
nitrification in Russian: Нитрификация
nitrification in Serbian: Нитрификација
nitrification in Ukrainian: Нітрифікація
nitrification in Chinese: 硝化反应
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