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Microbiol Rev. Jun 1992; 56(2): 340–373.
PMCID: PMC372871

Oxygen relations of nitrogen fixation in cyanobacteria.


The enigmatic coexistence of O2-sensitive nitrogenase and O2-evolving photosynthesis in diazotrophic cyanobacteria has fascinated researchers for over two decades. Research efforts in the past 10 years have revealed a range of O2 sensitivity of nitrogenase in different strains of cyanobacteria and a variety of adaptations for the protection of nitrogenase from damage by both atmospheric and photosynthetic sources of O2. The most complex and apparently most efficient mechanisms for the protection of nitrogenase are incorporated in the heterocysts, the N2-fixing cells of cyanobacteria. Genetic studies indicate that the controls of heterocyst development and nitrogenase synthesis are closely interrelated and that the expression of N2 fixation (nif) genes is regulated by pO2.

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