Cell-specific ammonia oxidation rate (AOR) has been suggested to be an indicator of the performance of nitrification reactors and to be used as an operational parameter previously. However, published AOR values change by orders of magnitude and studies investigating full-scale nitrification reactors are limited. Therefore, this study aimed at quantifying ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and estimating their in situ cell-specific AOR in a full-scale activated sludge reactor treating combined domestic and industrial wastewaters. Results showed that cell-specific AOR changed between 5.30 and 9.89 fmol cell(-1) h(-1), although no significant variation in AOB cell numbers were obtained (1.54E + 08 +/- 0.22 cell/ml). However, ammonia-removal efficiency varied largely (52-79 %) and was proportional to the cell-specific AOR in the reactor. This suggested that the cell-specific AOR might be the factor affecting the biological ammonia-removal efficiency of nitrification reactors independent of the AOB number. Further investigation is needed to establish an empirical relationship to use cell-specific AOR as a parameter to operate full-scale nitrification systems more effectively.