Phylogenetic perspectives of nitrogen-fixing actinobacteria


It was assumed for a long time that the ability to catalyze atmospheric nitrogen (diazotrophy) has a narrow distribution among actinobacteria being limited to the genus Frankia. Recently, the number of nitrogen fixation (nifH) genes identified in other non-Frankia actinobacteria has dramatically increased and has opened investigation on the origin and emergence of diazotrophy among actinobacteria. During the last decade, Mycobacterium flavum, Corynebacterium autotrophicum and a fluorescent Arthrobacter sp. have been reported to have nitrogenase activity, but these studies have not been further verified. Additional reports of nitrogen fixation by Agromyces, Microbacterium, Corynebacterium and Micromonospora isolated from root nodules of leguminous and actinorhizal plants have increased. For several actinobacteria, nitrogen fixation was demonstrated by the ability to grow on nitrogen-free medium, acetylene reduction activity, N-15 isotope dilution analysis and identification of a nifH gene via PCR amplification. Moreover, the analyses of draft genome sequences of actinobacteria including Slackia exigua, Rothia mucilaginosa and Gordonibacter pamelaeae have also revealed the presence of nifH-like sequences. Whether these nifH sequences are associated with effective nitrogen fixation in these actinobacteria taxa has not yet been demonstrated. These genes may be vertically or horizontally transferred and be silent sequences. These ideas merit further investigation. This minireview presents a phylogenetic comparison of nitrogen fixation gene (nifH) with the aim of elucidating the processes underlying the evolutionary history of this catalytic ability among actinobacteria.

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Archives of Microbiology


Springer Verlag

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