Rhizobium etli CFN42 is not capable of growing anaerobically with nitrate but it grows with nitrite as a terminal electron acceptor. This bacterium contains the nirK gene encoding the copper-containing Nir (nitrite reductase), which is located on the cryptic plasmid pCFN42f. Mutational analysis has demonstrated that a nirK deficient mutant was not capable of growing under nitrite-respiring conditions. Moreover, microaerobic growth of this mutant was inhibited by the presence of nitrite. Nir activity and nitrite uptake were highly diminished in a nirK mutant, compared with the wild-type levels after incubation under anaerobic conditions. Our results suggest that the copper-containing Nir may have both a respiratory and a nitrite-detoxifying role in R. etli.

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