, Volume 110, Issue 2, pp 225-238

Ecophysiological aspects of growth and nitrogen fixation inAzospirillum spp.

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Abstract

The nitrogenase activity ofAzospirillum spp. is efficiently regulated by environmental factors. InA. brasilense andA. lipoferum a rapid ‘switch off’ of nitrogenase activity occurs after the addition of ammonium chloride. As in photosynthetic bacteria, a covalent modification of nitrogenase reductase (Fe-protein) is involved. InA. amazonense, a non-covalent mechanism causes only a partial inhibition of nitrogenase activity after ammonium chloride is added. In anaerobic conditions, nitrogenase reductase is also ‘switched off’ by a covalent modification inA. brasilense andA. lipoferum. Short-time exposure ofAzospirillum to increased oxygen levels causes a partially reversible inhibition of nitrogenase activity, but no covalent modification is involved.Azospirillum spp. show variations in their oxygen tolerance. High levels of carotenoids confer a slightly improved oxygen tolerance. Certain amino acids (e. g. glutamate, aspartate, histidine and serine) affect growth and nitrogen fixation differently inAzospirillum spp. Amino acids may influence growth and nitrogen fixation ofAzospirillum in the association with plants.Azospirillum brasilense andA. halopraeferens are the more osmotolerant species. They utilize most amino acids poorly and accumulate glycine betaine, which also occurs in osmotically stressed grasses as a compatible solute to counteract osmotic stress. Nitrogen fixation is stimulated by glycine betaine and choline. Efficient iron acquisition is a prerequisite for competitive and aerotoleran growth and for high nitrogenase activity.Azospirillum halopraeferens andA. amazonense assimilate iron reasonably well, whereas growth of someA. brasilense andA. lipoferum strains is severely inhibited by iron limitation and by competition with foreign microbial iron chelators. However, growth of certain iron-limitedA. brasilense strains is stimulated by the phytosiderophore mugineic acid. Thus, various plant-derived substances may stimulate growth and nitrogen fixation ofAzospirillum.