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Microbiology. 1999 Mar;145 ( Pt 3):743-53.

Organization and expression of nitrogen-fixation genes in the aerobic nitrogen-fixing unicellular cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. strain RF-1.

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Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.


Sixteen nif and 'nif-associated' genes (expressed only under conditions of nitrogen fixation) in Synechococcus sp. strain RF-1 have been cloned and sequenced. All of the nif and nif-associated genes identified in Synechococcus RF-1 were arranged in a continuous cluster spanning approximately 18 kb and containing seven operons. The nifH operon (nifH-nifD-nifK) has been reported previously. nifB, fdxN, nifS, nifU and nifP were found to be located upstream of the nifH operon. nifB-fdxN-nifS-nifU were expressed as an operon. A nifP-like gene was found to be located just upstream of nifB. nifE, nifN, nifX, nifW and the nif-associated hesA, hesB and 'fdx' were found to be located downstream from nifK. The genes located downstream from nifK are arranged nifE-nifN-nifX-orf-nifW-hesA-hesB-'+ ++fdx' and span approximately 7 kb. The function of the ORF situated between nifX and nifW is not known. However, it was identified as a counterpart of ORF-2 in Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 based on the deduced amino acid sequence. Northern hybridization and primer extension analysis indicated that the nif and nif-associated genes are organized in nifE-nifN, nifX-orf, nifW-hesA-hesB and 'fdx'-containing operons, respectively. According to the results of this study and previous reports, the genes are expressed in a rhythmic pattern with peaks during the dark phase when the culture is grown in a 12 h light/12 h dark regimen. The rhythm persisted after the culture was transferred to continuous illumination.

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