Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 771–794 | Cite as

Sodium requirement and metabolism in nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria

  • Joseph Thomas
  • Shree Kumar Apte


Sodium affects the metabolism of eukaryotes and prokaryotes in several ways. This review collates information on the effects of Na+ on the metabolism of cyanobacteria with emphasis on the N2,fixing filamentous species. Na+ is required for nitrogenase activity inAnabaena torulosa, Anabaena L-31 andPlectonema boryanum. The features of this requirement have been mainly studied inAnabaena torulosa. The need for Na+ is specific and cannot be replaced by K+, Li+, Ca 2 + or Mg2+. Processes crucial for expression of nitrogenase such as molybdenum uptake, protection of the enzyme from oxygen inactivation and conformational activation of the enzyme are not affected by Na+. Mo-Fe protein and Fe protein, the two components of nitrogenase are synthesized in the absence of Na+ but the enzyme complex is catalytically inactive. Photoevolution of O2 and CO2 fixation, which are severely inhibited in the absence of Na+, are quickly restored by glutamine or glutamate indicating that Na+ deprivation affects photosynthesis indirectly due to deficiency in the products of N2 fixation. Na+ deprivation decreases phosphate uptake, nucleoside phosphate pool and nitrogenase activity. These effects are reversed by the addition of Na+ suggesting that a limitation of available ATP caused by reduced phosphate uptake results in loss of nitrogenase activity during Na+ starvation.

Na+ influx inAnabaena torulosa andAnabaena L-31 is unaffected by low K+ concentration, is carrier mediated, follows Michaelis-Menten kinetics and is modulated mainly by membrane potential. Treatments which cause membrane depolarisation and hyperpolarisation inhibit and enhance Na+ influx respectively. These cyanobacteria exhibit rapid active efflux of Na+, in a manner different from the Na+/H+ antiporter mechanism found inAnacystis nidulans.

Na+ requirement in nitrogen metabolism including nitrate assimilation, synthesis of amino acids and proteins, in respiration and oxidative phosphorylation, in transport of sugars and amino acids, cellular distribution of absorbed sodium, physiological basis of salt tolerance and prospects of reclamation of saline soils by cyanobacteria are the other aspects discussed in this review.


Cyanobacteria sodium requirement nitrogen fixation sodium transport salt tolerance 

Abbreviations used


Carbomylcyanide m-chlorophenyl-hydrazone








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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Thomas
    • 1
  • Shree Kumar Apte
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology and Agriculture DivisionBhabha Atomic Research CentreTrombay, BombayIndia

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