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J Biotechnol. 2011 Aug 20;155(1):104-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2010.12.025. Epub 2011 Jan 8.

Microbial nitrate respiration--genes, enzymes and environmental distribution.

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Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstra├če 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany.


Nitrate is a key node in the network of the assimilatory and respiratory nitrogen pathways. As one of the 'fixed' forms of nitrogen, nitrate plays an essential role in both nature and industry. For bacteria, it is both a nitrogen source and an electron acceptor. In agriculture and wastewater treatment, nitrate respiration by microorganisms is an important issue with respect to economics, greenhouse gas emission and public health. Several microbial processes compete for nitrate: denitrification, dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium and anaerobic ammonium oxidation. In this review we provide an up to date overview of the organisms, genes and enzymes involved in nitrate respiration. We also address the molecular detection of these processes in nature. We show that despite rapid progress in the experimental and genomic analyses of pure cultures, knowledge on the mechanism of nitrate reduction in natural ecosystems is still largely lacking.

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