Overview of physiological, biochemical, and regulatory aspects of nitrogen fixation in Azotobacter vinelandii.

Understanding how Nature accomplishes the reduction of inert nitrogen gas to form metabolically tractable ammonia at ambient temperature and pressure has challenged scientists for more than a century. Such an understanding is a key aspect toward accomplishing the transfer of the genetic determinants of biological nitrogen fixation to crop plants as well as for the development of improved synthetic catalysts based on the biological mechanism. Over the past 30?years, the free-living nitrogen-fixing bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii emerged as a preferred model organism for mechanistic, structural, genetic, and physiological studies aimed at understanding biological nitrogen fixation. This review provides a contemporary overview of these studies and places them within the context of their historical development.