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Roles For Enteric D-type Cytochrome Oxidase In N2 Fixation And Microaerobiosis

S Hill, S Viollet, A T Smith, C Anthony

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Escherichia coli strains that lacked the d-type cytochrome oxidase, the terminal oxidase with a high affinity for O2, grew anaerobically as well as the wild type did and were not impaired in the ability to evolve H2 from either glucose or formate. The anaerobic synthesis and activity of nitrogenase in transconjugants of these strains carrying Klebsiella pneumoniae nif genes were also normal. However, the behavior towards O2 of anaerobically grown bacteria lacking the d-type oxidase differed from that of the wild type in the following ways: the potential O2 uptake was lower, H2 evolution and nitrogenase activity supported by fermentation were more strongly inhibited by O2, and microaerobic O2-dependent nitrogenase activity in the absence of a fermentable carbon source did not occur. These results show that the d-type oxidase serves two functions in enteric bacteria--to conserve energy under microaerobic conditions and to protect anaerobic processes from inhibition by O2.