Bacteria change their metabolic states to increase survival by forming aggregates. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria also form aggregates in response to environmental stresses. Nitrosomonas mobilis, an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium with high stress tolerance, often forms aggregates mainly in wastewater treatment systems. Despite the high frequency of aggregate formation by N. mobilis, its relationship with survival currently remains unclear. In the present study, aggregates were formed in the late stage of culture with the accumulation of nitrite as a growth inhibitor. To clarify the significance of aggregate formation in N. mobilis Ms1, a transcriptome analysis was performed. Comparisons of the early and late stages of culture revealed that the expression of stress response genes (chaperones and proteases) increased in the early stage. Aggregate formation may lead to stress avoidance because stress response genes were not up-regulated in the late stage of culture during which aggregates formed. Furthermore, comparisons of free-living cells with aggregates in the early stage of culture showed differences in gene expression related to biosynthesis (ATP synthase and ribosomal proteins) and motility and adhesion (flagella, pilus, and chemotaxis). Biosynthesis genes for growth were up-regulated in free-living cells, while motility and adhesion genes for adaptation were up-regulated in aggregates. These results indicate that N. mobilis Ms1 cells adapt to an unfavorable environment and grow through the division of labor between aggregates and free-living cells.
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