Plant and Soil

, Volume 108, Issue 1, pp 7–14 | Cite as

Biological nitrogen fixation: A scientific perspective

  • R. H. Burris
Article

Abstract

The discoveries of Hellriegel and Wilfarth ended the period of controversy about the existence of biological N2 fixation and launched a period featuring the agronomic application of the inoculation of legumes. Serious studies of the biochemistry of N2 fixation started in the late 1920's, and defined some of the basic properties of the N2-fixing system. Application of15N as a tracer gave definitive evidence for the role of ammonia as the key intermediate in biological N2 fixation. It was demonstrated in the 1950's and 1960's that nitrogenase could reduce substrates other than N2. With the achievement of consistent cell-free N2 fixation it was possible to resolve the nitrogenase system into two proteins, electron donors, and ATP-hydrolyzing and regenerating systems. The sequence of electron transfer was established. Recently, studies of the genetics of the nitrogenase system have defined in detail how the system is assembled and controlled.

Key words

applications biochemistry discoveries nitrogen fixation 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. H. Burris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry College of Agricultural and Life SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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