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J Bacteriol. 1993 Oct;175(19):6276-86.

Characterization of genes for an alternative nitrogenase in the cyanobacterium Anabaena variabilis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Missouri-St. Louis 63121.


Anabaena variabilis ATCC 29413 is a heterotrophic, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium that has been reported to fix nitrogen and reduce acetylene to ethane in the absence of molybdenum. DNA from this strain hybridized well at low stringency to the nitrogenase 2 (vnfDGK) genes of Azotobacter vinelandii. The hybridizing region was cloned from a lambda EMBL3 genomic library of A. variabilis, mapped, and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequences of the vnfD and vnfK genes of A. variabilis showed only about 56% similarity to the nifDK genes of Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 but were 76 to 86% similar to the anfDK or vnfDK genes of A. vinelandii. The organization of the vnf gene cluster in A. variabilis was similar to that of A. vinelandii. However, in A. variabilis, the vnfG gene was fused to vnfD; hence, this gene is designated vnfDG. A vnfH gene was not contiguous with the vnfDG gene and has not yet been identified. A mutant strain, in which a neomycin resistance cassette was inserted into the vnf cluster, grew well in a medium lacking a source of fixed nitrogen in the presence of molybdenum but grew poorly when vanadium replaced molybdenum. In contrast, the parent strain grew equally well in media containing either molybdenum or vanadium. The vnf genes were transcribed in the absence of molybdenum, with or without vanadium. The vnf gene cluster did not hybridize to chromosomal DNA from Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 or from the heterotrophic strains, Nostoc sp. strain Mac and Nostoc sp. strain ATCC 29150. A hybridizing ClaI fragment very similar in size to the A. variabilis ClaI fragment was present in DNA isolated from several independent, cultured isolates of Anabaena sp. from the Azolla symbiosis.

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