Azorhizobium caulinodans employs both cytochrome bd (cytbd; quinol oxidase) and cytcbb3 (cytc oxidase) as terminal oxidases in environments with very low O2 concentrations. To investigate physiological roles of these two terminal oxidases both in microaerobic culture and in symbiosis, knockout mutants were constructed. As evidenced by visible absorbance spectra taken from mutant bacteria carrying perfect gene replacements, both the cytbd- and cytcbb3- mutations were null alleles. In aerobic culture under 2% O2 atmosphere, Azorhizobium cytbd- and cytcbb3- single mutants both fixed N2 at 70 to 90% of wild-type rates; in root nodule symbiosis, both single mutants fixed N2 at 50% of wild-type rates. In contrast, Azorhizobium cytbd- cytcbb3-double mutants, which carry both null alleles, completely lacked symbiotic N2 fixation activity. Therefore, both Azorhizobium cytbd and cytcbb3 oxidases drive respiration in environments with nanomolar O2 concentrations during symbiotic N2 fixation. In culture under a 2% O2 atmosphere, Azorhizobium cytbd- cytcbb3- double mutants fixed N2 at 70% of wild-type rates, presumably reflecting cytaa3 and cytbo (and other) terminal oxidase activities. In microaerobic continuous cultures in rich medium, Azorhizobium cytbd- and cytcbb3- single mutants were compared for their ability to deplete a limiting-O2 sparge; cytbd oxidase activity maintained dissolved O2 at 3.6 microM steady state, whereas cytcbb3 oxidase activity depleted O2 to submicromolar levels. Growth rates reflected this difference; cytcbb3 oxidase activity disproportionately supported microaerobic growth. Paradoxically, in O2 limited continuous culture, Azorhizobium cytbd oxidase is inactive below 3.6 microM dissolved O2 whereas in Sesbania rostrata symbiotic nodules, in which physiological, dissolved O2 is maintained at 10 to 20 nM, both Azorhizobium cytbd and cytcbb3 seem to contribute equally as respiratory terminal oxidases.



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The definitive version is available at http://jb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/178/20/5989.

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