Azotobacter vinelandii is a widely studied model diazotrophic (nitrogen-fixing) bacterium and also an obligate aerobe, differentiating it from many other diazotrophs that require environments low in oxygen for the function of the nitrogenase. As a freelivingbacterium, A. vinelandii has evolved enzymes and transporters to minimize the loss of fixed nitrogen to the surrounding environment. In this study, we pursued efforts to target specific enzymes and further developed screens to identify individual colonies of A. vinelandii producing elevated levels of extracellular nitrogen. Targeted deletions were done to convert urea into a terminal product by disrupting the urease genes that influence the ability of A. vinelandii to recycle the urea nitrogen within the cell. Construction of a nitrogen biosensor strain was done to rapidly screen several thousand colonies disrupted by transposon insertional mutagenesis to identify strains with increased extracellular nitrogen production. Several disruptions were identified in the ammonium transporter gene amtB that resulted in the production of sufficient levels of extracellular nitrogen to support the growth of the biosensor strain. Further studies substituting the biosensor strain with the green alga Chlorella sorokiniana confirmed that levels of nitrogen produced were sufficient to support the growth of this organism when the medium was supplemented with sufficient sucrose to support the growth of the A. vinelandii in coculture. The nature and quantities of nitrogen released by urease and amtB disruptions were further compared to strains reported in previous efforts that altered the nifLA regulatory system to produce elevated levels of ammonium. These results reveal alternative approaches that can be used in various combinations to yield new strains that might have further application in biofertilizer schemes.
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© 2015, American Society for Microbiology.