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By T. Fenchel, G.M. King and T.H. Blackburn (Auth.)

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Sample text

Dinitrogenase reductase is O2 sensitive and so nitrogen fixation can take place only under anaerobic conditions. The activation energy of N2 is also very high, and the process requires a low redox potential making it energetically costly. For reasons not understood the process involves the reduction of protons so that H2 is produced simultaneously with the reduction of N2 to 2NH 4 and the entire process requires 18–24 ATP per N2 reduced. Nitrogenase is not very specific and catalyzes the reduction of other compounds, such as acetylene to ethylene, a process that is exploited for quantifying nitrogenase activity.

The result is a so-called biased random walk that will tend to direct the cells towards a desired goal (Berg, 1993). There are several variations on this theme according to whether the species in question is adapted to orient itself towards point sources of attractants or to orient in a linear gradient. These differences will be discussed in somewhat more detail in subsequent chapters describing different bacterial habitats. Many swimming bacteria tend to attach temporarily to solid surfaces, and after some time they may attach permanently.

Also, microbes may need to seek out better environments and avoid adverse conditions. Constraints of physical transport, swimming velocities and the efficiency of motile chemosensory and photosensory behaviour limit the rate of biological processes, and determine the spatial organization of microbial communities. Bacteria live on a small scale. This has substantial and in part counterintuitive consequences for physical transport mechanisms and cell motility. , a filter-feeding animal pumps water currents through some sort of filter in order to sieve out food particles; fish pump water across their gills or swim with an open mouth in order to flush their gills with oxygenated water; predatory animals search actively to increase the probability of encountering prey.

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