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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Mar;9(3):727-36.

On the role of oxygen for nitrogen fixation in the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium sp.

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Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NIOO-KNAW, Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, P.O. Box 140, 4400 AC Yerseke, the Netherlands.


The marine, non-heterocystous, filamentous cyanobacterium Trichodesmium shows a distinct diurnal pattern of nitrogenase activity. In an attempt to reveal the factors that control this pattern, a series of measurements were carried out using online acetylene reduction assay. Light response curves of nitrogenase were recorded applying various concentrations of oxygen. The effect of oxygen depended on the irradiance applied. Above a photon irradiance of 16 mumol m(-2) s(-1) nitrogenase activity was highest under anoxic conditions. Below this irradiance the presence of oxygen was required to achieve highest nitrogenase activity and in the dark 5% oxygen was optimal. At any oxygen concentration a photon irradiance of 100 mumol m(-2) s(-1) was saturating. When Trichodesmium was incubated in the dark, nitrogenase activity gradually decreased and this decline was higher at higher levels of oxygen. The activity recovered when the cells were subsequently incubated in the light. This recovery depended on oxygenic photosynthesis because it did not occur in the presence of DCMU [3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea]. Recovery of nitrogenase activity in the light was faster at low oxygen concentrations. The results showed that under aerobic conditions nitrogenase activity was limited by the availability of reducing equivalents suggesting a competition for electrons between nitrogenase and respiration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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