Understanding Nitrogen Fixation in Bacteria


Nitrogen fixation is required for all forms of life, being essential for the biosynthesis of molecules that are used in creating plants and organisms.  Nitrogenase is the only known enzyme capable of performing this multi-electron reduction, and understanding how it does this conversion is of high importance also for the production of ammonia (as fertilizer), for energy efficiency (as industrial processes to produce ammonia consumes enormous amounts of energy), and for global warming (capturing N2).  The structure of the CO inhibitor bound to the FeMo-cofactor active site in nitrogenase at high resolution provides insight into a catalytic competent state, establishes the importance of a bridging S atom, and indicates how N2 might bind during turn-over. Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.

Spatzal, K.A. Perez, O. Einsle, J.B. Howard, D.C. Rees, “Ligand binding to the FeMo-cofactor: Structures of CO-bound and reactivated nitrogenase” Science 345, 1620-1623 (2014), doi: 10.1126/science.1256679

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