The "oxygen paradox" of dinitrogen-fixing bacteria
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N2 fixation by aerobic bacteria is a very energy demanding process, requiring efficient oxidative phosphorylation, while O2 is toxic for the nitrogenase complex. N2-fixing bacteria have evolved a variety of strategies to cope with this apparent "O2 paradox". This review compares strategies that azospirilla and other well-known N2-fixing soil bacteria use to overcome this O2 paradox. Attention will be given to the relationships between the natural habitat of these soil bacteria and their prevailing adaptations. In view of this knowledge the following questions will be addressed: are the specific adaptations observed in azospirilla sufficient to allow optimal proliferation and N2 fixation in their natural habitat? Could improving the O2 tolerance of the N2-fixing process contribute to the development of more efficient strains for the inoculation of plants?
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