The Klebsiella pneumoniae nitrogenase Fe protein gene (nifH) functionally substitutes for the chlL gene in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Apr 15;329(3):966-75. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2005.02.064.


The entire coding region of chlL, an essential chloroplast gene required for chlorophyll biosynthesis in the dark in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, was precisely replaced by either the Klebsiella pneumoniae nifH (encoding the structural component of nitrogenase Fe protein) or the Escherichia coli uidA reporter gene encoding beta-glucuronidase. Homoplasmic nifH or uidA transformants were identified by Southern blots after selection on minimal medium plates for several generations. All the uidA transformants had the "yellow-in-the-dark" phenotype characteristic of chlL mutants, whereas homoplasmic nifH transformants exhibited a partial "green-in-the-dark" phenotype. NifH protein was detected in the nifH transformants but not in the wild-type strain by Western blotting. Fluorescence emission measurements also showed the existence of chlorophyll in the dark-grown nifH transformants, but not in the dark-grown uidA transformants. The nifH transplastomic form of C. reinhardtii that lacks the chlL gene can still produce chlorophyll in the dark, suggesting that the nifH product can at least partially substitute for the function of the putative "chlorophyll iron protein" encoded by chlL. Thus, introducing nitrogen fixation gene directly into a chloroplast genome is likely to be feasible and providing a possible way of engineering chloroplasts with functional nitrogenase. Notably, to introduce foreign genes without also introducing selective marker genes, a novel two-step chloroplast transformation strategy has been developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / cytology
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / enzymology*
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / genetics*
  • Chlorophyll / biosynthesis*
  • Chloroplasts / genetics
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular / methods
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / enzymology*
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Protein Engineering / methods
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Chlorophyll
  • Oxidoreductases
  • nitrogenase reductase