Nitrogen metabolism in prokaryotes involves the coordinated expression of a large number of enzymes concerned with both utilization of extracellular nitrogen sources and intracellular biosynthesis of nitrogen-containing compounds. The control of this expression is determined by the availability of fixed nitrogen to the cell and is effected by complex regulatory networks involving regulation at both the transcriptional and posttranslational levels. While the most detailed studies to date have been carried out with enteric bacteria, there is a considerable body of evidence to show that the nitrogen regulation (ntr) systems described in the enterics extend to many other genera. Furthermore, as the range of bacteria in which the phenomenon of nitrogen control is examined is being extended, new regulatory mechanisms are also being discovered. In this review, we have attempted to summarize recent research in prokaryotic nitrogen control; to show the ubiquity of the ntr system, at least in gram-negative organisms; and to identify those areas and groups of organisms about which there is much still to learn.
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