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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Feb;1827(2):114-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

Diversity and evolution of bioenergetic systems involved in microbial nitrogen compound transformations.

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Microbial Energy Conversion and Biotechnology, Department of Biology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstr. 10, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany.


Nitrogen is an essential element of life that needs to be assimilated in its most reduced form, ammonium. On the other hand, nitrogen exists in a multitude of oxidation states and, consequently, nitrogen compounds (NCs) serve as electron donor and/or acceptors in many catabolic pathways including various forms of microbial respiration that contribute to the global biogeochemical nitrogen cycle. Some of these NCs are also known as reactive nitrogen species able to cause nitrosative stress because of their high redox reactivity. The best understood processes of the nitrogen cycle are denitrification and ammonification (both beginning with nitrate reduction to nitrite), nitrification (aerobic oxidation of ammonium and nitrite) and anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox). This review presents examples of the diverse architecture, either elucidated or anticipated, and the high degree of modularity of the corresponding respiratory electron transport processes found in Bacteria and Archaea, and relates these to their respective bioenergetic mechanisms of proton motive force generation. In contrast to the multiplicity of enzymes that catalyze NC transformations, the number of proteins or protein modules involved in connecting electron transport to and from these enzymes with the quinone/quinol pool is comparatively small. These quinone/quinol-reactive protein modules consist of cytochromes b and c and iron-sulfur proteins. Conclusions are drawn towards the evolutionary relationships of bioenergetic systems involved in NC transformation and deduced aspects of the evolution of the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle are presented. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The evolutionary aspects of bioenergetic systems.

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