• Nitrogenase;
  • Cyanobacteria;
  • Trichodesmium;
  • Plankton;
  • Phycoerythrin

Abstract In Trichodesmium contortum, nitrogenase was detected in only a limited number (about 10%) of microscopically distinguishable, consecutively arranged cells in central regions of the trichomes. Cells with nitrogenase also contained the photosystem II associated pigment phycoerythrin. These cells were not distinguishable from other cells on a structural basis, but were clearly visible at low magnification microscopy as all in the zone were more compact and shorter than those on either side. The compartmentalisation of nitrogenase into a chain of cells and in a possibly photosynthetic environment represents a previously undescribed phenomenon. The nitrogenase containing cells apparently perform the O2 protective function of heterocysts yet are different in several aspects.