Plant and Soil

, Volume 194, Issue 1–2, pp 193–203 | Cite as

Nif gene transfer and expression in chloroplasts: Prospects and problems

  • Ray Dixon
  • Qi Cheng
  • Gui-Fang Shen
  • Anil Day
  • Mandy Dowson-Day


The engineering of plants capable of fixing their own nitrogen is an extremely complex task, requiring the co-ordinated and regulated expression of 16 nif genes in an appropriate cellular location. We suggest that plastids may provide a favourable environment for nif gene expression provided that the nitrogenase enzyme can be protected from oxygen damage. Using the non-heterocystous cyanobacteria as a model, we argue that photosynthesis could be temporally separated from nitrogen fixation in chloroplasts by restricting nitrogenase synthesis to the dark period. We report preliminary data on the introduction and expression of one of nitrogenase components, the Fe protein, in transgenic tobacco and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Finally we discuss potential avenues for further research in this area and the prospects for achieving the ultimate goal of expressing active nitrogenase in cereal crops such as rice.

chloroplast genetic engineering nif genes nitrogenase plant transformation plastid 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ray Dixon
    • 1
  • Qi Cheng
    • 1
  • Gui-Fang Shen
    • 2
  • Anil Day
    • 3
  • Mandy Dowson-Day
    • 3
  1. 1.Nitrogen Fixation LaboratoryJohn Innes Centre, Colney LaneNorwichUK
  2. 2.Biotechnology Research CenterChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK and

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