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The Role Of Oxygen Diffusion From The Shoots And Nodule Roots In Nitrogen Fixation By Root Nodules Of Myrica Gale

John Tjepkema

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Nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction) and oxygen uptake by root nodules of Myrica gale L. were measured before and after removal of nodule roots. There was no significant effect of nodule root removal when respiration was measured in the gas phase (0.05–0.2 atm pO2 (1 atm = 101.325 kPa)) or acetylene reduction in a stirred aqueous phase at 0.2 atm pO2. However, when acetylene reduction was measured in 0.05 atm pO2 in an unstirred aqueous phase, there was a 66 to 76% reduction in activity. These results indicate that nodule roots are important for oxygen uptake when the nodules are present in an aqueous phase at low pO2, which is probably the normal environmental conditions for many of the nodules. Other measurements showed that diffusion of oxygen from the shoot to the root nodules is not important for nitrogen fixation. These measurements were done on whole plants with the shoots in air (0.20 atm pO2) and the roots in water at the desired pO2 value. With 0.0 atmpO2 in the root environment, the rate of acetylene reduction was only 4% of the rate at 0.2 atmpO2. Thus, only small amounts of oxygen are transported from the shoot to the nodules.