Structural analysis of the Trichodesmium nitrogenase iron protein: implications for aerobic nitrogen fixation activity


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Trichodesmium spp. are marine filamentous nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria which play an important role in the nitrogen budget of the open ocean. Trichodesmium is unique in that it is nonheterocystous and fixes nitrogen during the day, while evolving oxygen through photosynthesis, even though nitrogenase is sensitive to oxygen inactivation. The sequence of the gene encoding the Fe protein component of nitrogenase from the recently cultivated isolate Trichodesmium sp. IMS 101 was used to construct a 3-dimensional model of the Fe protein, by comparison to the X-ray crystallographic structure of the Fe protein of the γ-proteobacterium Azotobacter vinelandii. The primary differences in amino acid sequences of the Fe protein from diverse organisms do not impact the critical structural features of the Fe protein. It can be concluded that aerobic nitrogen fixation in Trichodesmium spp. is not facilitated by unique structural features of Trichodesmium Fe protein.