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Microbiology. 2004 Nov;150(Pt 11):3527-46.

Nitrate reduction and the nitrogen cycle in archaea.

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Departamento de Biología Vegetal, Area de Fisiología Vegetal, Universidad de Córdoba, Spain.


The nitrogen cycle (N-cycle) in the biosphere, mainly driven by prokaryotes, involves different reductive or oxidative reactions used either for assimilatory purposes or in respiratory processes for energy conservation. As the N-cycle has important agricultural and environmental implications, bacterial nitrogen metabolism has become a major research topic in recent years. Archaea are able to perform different reductive pathways of the N-cycle, including both assimilatory processes, such as nitrate assimilation and N(2) fixation, and dissimilatory reactions, such as nitrate respiration and denitrification. However, nitrogen metabolism is much less known in archaea than in bacteria. The availability of the complete genome sequences of several members of the eury- and crenarchaeota has enabled new approaches to the understanding of archaeal physiology and biochemistry, including metabolic reactions involving nitrogen compounds. Comparative studies reveal that significant differences exist in the structure and regulation of some enzymes involved in nitrogen metabolism in archaea, giving rise to important conclusions and new perspectives regarding the evolution, function and physiological relevance of the different N-cycle processes. This review discusses the advances that have been made in understanding nitrate reduction and other aspects of the inorganic nitrogen metabolism in archaea.

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