How nitrogen-fixing bacteria sense iron

phys.org | 9/17/2019 | Staff
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Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered how nitrogen-fixing bacteria sense iron—an essential but deadly micronutrient.

Some bacteria naturally fix nitrogen from the soil into a form that plants can use. In nature, most plants get nitrogen either from soil bacteria that do this work or from plants and microbes that die and recycle their nitrogen into the soil. In agriculture, soil is enriched with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.

Life - Forms - Iron - Metal - Cells

Virtually all life forms require iron to survive, yet too much of the metal can be catastrophic. In healthy cells, many systems regulate this delicate balance.

In many nitrogen-fixing bacteria, a protein called RirA plays a key role in regulating iron. It senses high levels of the metal and helps to shut down the production of proteins that bring in more iron.

RirA - Cluster - Iron - Sulfur - Atoms

RirA contains a cluster of four iron and four sulfur atoms, which acts as a sensor for iron availability. But until now, exactly how this cluster structure detects iron levels in a cell was unclear.

The UEA research team was led by Prof Nick Le Brun from the School of Chemistry in collaboration with researchers at the University of Essex.

Technique - Mass - Spectrometry - Response - Cluster

They used a technique known as time-resolved mass spectrometry to examine the sensory response of the iron-sulfur cluster of RirA when different levels of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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