Biological nitrogen fixation can be catalyzed by three isozymes of nitrogenase: Mo-nitrogenase, V-nitrogenase and Fe-nitrogenase. The activity of these isozymes strongly depends on their metal cofactors, Mo, V and Fe, and their bioavailability in ecosystems. Here, we show how metal bioavailability can be affected by the presence of tannic acid (organic matter), and the subsequent consequences on diazotrophic growth of the soil bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii. In the presence of tannic acids, A. vinelandii produces a higher amount of metallophores, which coincides with an active, regulated and concomitant acquisition of Mo and V under cellular conditions that are usually considered not Mo limiting. The associated nitrogenase genes exhibit decreased nifD expression and increased vnfD expression. Thus, in limiting bioavailable metal conditions, A. vinelandii takes advantage of its nitrogenase diversity to ensure optimal diazotrophic growth.
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