Rhodobacter capsulatus gains a competitive advantage from respiratory nitrate reduction during light-dark transitions

M.J.K. Ellington, D.J. Richardson, S.J. Ferguson

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14 Citations (Scopus)


hodobacter capsulatus N22DNAR+ possesses a periplasmic nitrate reductase and is capable of reducing nitrate to nitrite under anaerobic conditions. In the absence of light this ability cannot support chemoheterotrophic growth in batch cultures. This study investigated the effect of nitrate reduction on the growth of R. capsulatus N22DNAR+ during multiple light–dark cycles of anaerobic photoheterotrophic/dark chemoheterotrophic growth conditions in carbon-limited continuous cultures. The reduction of nitrate did not affect the photoheterotrophic growth yield of R. capsulatus N22DNAR+. After a transition from photoheterotrophic to dark chemoheterotrophic growth conditions, the reduction of nitrate slowed the initial washout of a R. capsulatus N22DNAR+ culture. Towards the end of a period of darkness nitrate-reducing cultures maintained higher viable cell counts than non-nitrate-reducing cultures. During light–dark cycling of a mixed culture, the strain able to reduce nitrate (N22DNAR+) outcompeted the strain which was unable to reduce nitrate (N22). The evidence indicates that the periplasmic nitrate reductase activity supports slow growth that retards the washout of a culture during anaerobic chemoheterotrophic conditions, and provides a protonmotive force for cell maintenance during the dark period before reillumination. This translates into a selective advantage during repeated light–dark cycles, such that in mixed culture N22DNAR+ outcompetes N22. Exposure to light–dark cycles will be a common feature for R. capsulatus in its natural habitats, and this study shows that nitrate respiration may provide a selective advantage under such conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-948
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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