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Nitrogen fixation is a process by which nitrogen, which is present in the atmosphere as free form is converted into ammonium (NH4+). Atmospheric nitrogen or molecular nitrogen (N2) is relatively inert and it does not easily react with other compounds to form new components. The fixation process frees up the nitrogen atoms from their diatomic form (N2) to be used in other ways.
Nitrogen fixation in both the forms like natural and synthetic is very much essential for all forms of life because N2 is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of living things such as plants, animals and other life forms, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and amino acids for proteins. Therefore nitrogen fixation is very much essential for agriculture as well for manufacture of fertilizers. It is also used in the manufacture of explosives etc. Nitrogen fixation also occurs naturally in air by means of lightning. It also refers to other biological conversions of nitrogen, such as its conversion to NO2. Microorganisms that can fix nitrogen are prokaryotes (both bacteria and archaea, distributed throughout their respective kingdoms) called diazotrophs. Some higher plants, and some animals (termites), have formed associations (symbiosis) with diazotrophs.
Cyanobacteria are oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria that are widespread in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Most of them are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen but ironically, important enzyme nitrogenase, is responsible for the reduction of N2, is extremely sensitive to O2. Therefore oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation are not compatible. The organisms living in aquatic nature possess several types of the enzyme complexes which help in catalyzing N2 fixation and/or H2 formation. The two cyanobacterial Ni hydrogenases are differentiated as either uptake or bidirectional hydrogenases. The different forms of both the nitrogenases and hydrogenases are encoded by different sets of genes, and their organization on the chromosome can vary from one cyanobacterium to another
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Last date updated on June, 2014