Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 135–141 | Cite as

Control of nitrogenase in chemostat cultures of Rhodobacter capsulatus grown on ammonium at different illuminations

  • Birgitta Steinborn
  • Uwe J. Jürgens
  • Jürgen Oelze
Original Papers


Rhodobacter capsulatus strain 37b4 was grown phototrophically in chemostat cultures with 2 mM of ammonium chloride and 30 mM of malate at a constant dilution rate of 0.075 h-1. When illumination was raised from 3000 to 30000 lx, steady state biomass levels as well as malate uptake increased linearly with increasing illumination. Yet, in no case external ammonium could be detected in the culture fluid. Specific nitrogenase activity increased by a factor of ten between 3000 and 15000 lx and approached constancy above 15 000 lx. When samples were anaerobically withdrawn from the chemostat and subsequently grown in batch cultures under saturating light conditions, biomass increased to a constant level, independently of the illumination used in the previous chemostat culture. In fact, the specific nitrogen contents of cells were 0.195 and 0.154 (g of N per g of protein) with chemostat cultures adapted to 3000 and 30000 lx, respectively. With the former cultures, specific nitrogen contents decreased to 0.142 g of nitrogen per g of cell protein upon incubation in a batch system. This suggests the existence of free nitrogen compounds in cells of chemostat cultures, the concentrations of which decrease while protein levels increase with increasing energy supply. Intracellular amino acid pools revealed slightly elevated levels of major amino acids in low-light cultures as compared to high-light cultures. On the basis of intracellular levels of ammonium, however, no significant differences could be detected. Since, in addition, malate consumption increased linearly with increasing illumination, it is proposed that light controls nitrogenase in Rhodobacter capsulatus via the C/N ratio, as represented by malate and ammonium consumption, rather than directly.

Key words

Rhodobacter capsulatus Chemostat Energy supply Nitrogen levels C/N ratio Nitrogenase activities Nitrogenase expression 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Birgitta Steinborn
    • 1
  • Uwe J. Jürgens
    • 1
  • Jürgen Oelze
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Biologie II, MikrobiologieUniversität FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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