Cytochrome c, which has been implicated as an electron carrier for nitrite reduction by Escherichia coli, has been separated from NADH-nitrite oxidoreductase activity. The cytochrome is therefore not required for the reduction of nitrite by NADH in vitro. Nevertheless, some mutants which were selected by their inability to use nitrite as a nitrogen source during anaerobic growth synthesize neither NADH-nitrite oxidoreductase nor cytochrome c. The defects in these mutants are due to mutations in a single gene, nirA, which is located at about minute 29 on the recalibrated linkage map. Experiments with an F' plasmid which carries a nirA allele established that nirA is dominant to the defective allele. Other mutants, defective in nitrate reductase activity because of mutations in the chlA or chlB genes, synthesized nitrite reductase and cytochrome c in the absence of nitrate or nitrite.

A mutant with a defective fnr gene was also NirA- and, conversely, nirA mutants were Fnr-. In a series of transduction experiments, attempts to separate the nirA and fnr defects were unsuccessful. Furthermore, no complementation was observed when an F' plasmid carrying a defective nirA allele was transferred into the fnr strain. It is concluded that the fir gene described by Lambden & Guest (1976) is identical to the nirA gene and that its product affects the synthesis or assembly of a variety of anaerobic redox enzymes which include nitrite reductase, cytochrome c, nitrate reductase, fumarate reductase and formate hydrogenlyase.


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