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    Hot spring ecosystems are analogous to some thermal environments on the early Earth and represent ideal models to understand life forms and element cycling on the early Earth. Denitrification, an important component of biogeochemical nitrogen cycle, is highly active in hot springs. Nitrite (NO2-) reduction to nitric oxide (NO) is the significant and rate-limiting pathway in denitrification and is catalyzed by two types of nitrite reductases, encoded by nirS and nirK genes. NirS and NirK were originally considered incompatible in most denitrifying organisms, although a few strains have been reported to possess both genes. Herein, we report the functional division of nirS and nirK in Thermus, a thermophilic genus widespread in thermal ecosystems. Transcriptional levels of nirS and nirK coexisting in Thermus antranikianii DSM 12462T were measured to assess the effects of nitrite, oxygen, and stimulation time. Thirty-nine Thermus strains were used to analyze the phylogeny and distribution of nirS and nirK; six representative strains were used to assess the denitrification phenotype. The results showed that both genes were actively transcribed and expressed independently in T. antranikianii DSM 12462T. Strains with both nirS and nirK had a wider range of nitrite adaptation and revealed nir-related physiological adaptations in Thermus: nirK facilitated adaptation to rapid changes and extended the adaptation range of nitrite under oxygen-limited conditions, while nirS expression was higher under oxic and relatively stable conditions.


    Rui-Rui Liu, Ye Tian, En-Min Zhou, Meng-Jie Xiong, Min Xiao, Wen-Jun Li. Distinct Expression of the Two NO-Forming Nitrite Reductases in Thermus antranikianii DSM 12462T Improved Environmental Adaptability. Microbial ecology. 2020 Oct;80(3):614-626

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    PMID: 32474659

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