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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2001 Oct 31;1521(1-3):130-4.

Characterization of the nirK gene encoding the respiratory, Cu-containing nitrite reductase of Bradyrhizobium japonicum.

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Departamento de Microbiología del Suelo y Sistemas Simbióticos, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, CSIC, P.O. Box 419, 18080-, Granada, Spain.


The structural gene, nirK, for the respiratory Cu-containing nitrite reductase from Bradyrhizobium japonicum USDA110 has been isolated and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequence exhibited a high degree of similarity to other Cu-containing nitrite reductases from various sources. The full-length protein included a signal peptide for protein export. Analysis of the sequence upstream from the structural nirK gene revealed the presence of an anaerobox located 83 base pairs from the putative translational start codon. Cells of strain GRK308, a nitrite reductase-deficient derivative of strain USDA110, were unable to grow when cultured under microaerobic conditions (1% O(2)) in the presence of either nitrate or nitrite. Maximal expression of a nirK-lacZ fusion in strain USDA110 required simultaneously both low level oxygen conditions and the presence of nitrate. Expression of beta-galactosidase activity was not detected in the B. japonicum fixL 7403, fixJ 7360 and fixK(2) 9043 mutants transformed with the nirK-lacZ fusion after incubation of the cells under oxygen-limiting conditions either with or without nitrate. Complementation of B. japonicum 9043 with the fixK(2) gene restored beta-galactosidase activity to levels similar to those found in the parental strain. These results suggest that nirK expression depends on the low-oxygen-responsive two-component regulatory system FixLJ and on the Fnr/FixK-like DNA binding protein FixK(2).

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