Background. Denitrification is one of the main pathways of the N-cycle, during which nitrate is converted to dinitrogen gas, in four consecutive reactions that are each catalyzed by a different metalloenzyme. One of the intermediate metabolites is nitrous oxide, which has a global warming impact greater then carbon dioxide and which atmospheric concentration has been increasing in the last years. The four denitrification enzymes have been isolated and biochemically characterized from Marinobacter hydrocarbonoclasticus in our lab. Methods. Bioinformatic analysis of the M. hydrocarbonoclasticus genome to identify the genes involved in the denitrification pathway. The relative gene expression of the gene encoding the catalytic subunits of those enzymes was analyzed during the growth under microoxic conditions. The consumption of nitrate and nitrite, and the reduction of nitric oxide and nitrous oxide by whole-cells was monitored during anoxic and microoxic growth in the presence of 10 mM sodium nitrate at pH 7.5. Results. The bioinformatic analysis shows that genes encoding the enzymes and accessory factors required for each step of the denitrification pathway are clustered together. An unusual feature is the co-existence of genes encoding a q- and a c-type nitric oxide reductase, with only the latter being transcribed at similar levels as the ones encoding the catalytic subunits of the other denitrifying enzymes, when cells are grown in the presence of nitrate under microoxic conditions. Using either a batch- or a closed system, nitrate is completely consumed in the beginning of the growth, with transient formation of nitrite, and whole-cells can reduce nitric oxide and nitrous oxide from mid-exponential phase until being collected (time-point 50 h). Discussion. M. hydrocarbonoclasticus cells can reduce nitric and nitrous oxide in vivo, indicating that the four denitrification steps are active. Gene expression profile together with promoter regions analysis indicates the involvement of a cascade regulatory mechanism triggered by FNR-type in response to low oxygen tension, with nitric oxide and nitrate as secondary effectors, through DNR and NarXL, respectively. This global characterization of the denitrification pathway of a strict marine bacterium, contributes to the understanding of the N-cycle and nitrous oxide release in marine environments.
- Gene regulation
- Nitrogen biogeochemical cycle
- Nitrous oxide