Strukturbiologie von Elementzyklen: Thomas Barends

How Bacteria Make Rocket Fuel - Structural biology of the anammox process


The discovery of anammox bacteria in the 1990's has dramatically changed our understanding of the global nitrogen cycle. These bacteria perform ANaerobic AMMonium Oxidation, combining ammonium with nitrite into molecular dinitrogen (N2) and water, yielding energy for the cell. The anammox process is responsible for up to 10% of the global nitrogen cycle, and in some ecosystems contributes up to 50% to the total N2 production. Biochemical studies, mainly by the group of Mike Jetten and coworkers in Nijmegen, have identified the enzymes involved, and showed that the central step in this process is the combination of nitric oxide and ammonia into the extremely unusual, highly toxic and reactive intermediate hydrazine.

Schematic of the current view of the anammox pathway

Cutaway view of the NO-generating hydroxylamine oxidase from the anammox organism Kuenenia stuttgartiensis, showing its P460 cofactor

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