Indexed on: 18 Oct '03Published on: 18 Oct '03Published in: Planta
Several unicellular and filamentous, nitrogen-fixing and non-nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterial strains have been investigated on the molecular and the physiological level in order to find the most efficient organisms for photobiological hydrogen production. These strains were screened for the presence or absence of hup and hox genes, and it was shown that they have different sets of genes involved in H(2) evolution. The uptake hydrogenase was identified in all N(2)-fixing cyanobacteria, and some of these strains also contained the bidirectional hydrogenase, whereas the non-nitrogen fixing strains only possessed the bidirectional enzyme. In N(2)-fixing strains, hydrogen was mainly produced by the nitrogenase as a by-product during the reduction of atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia. Therefore, hydrogen production was investigated both under non-nitrogen-fixing conditions and under nitrogen limitation. It was shown that the hydrogen uptake activity is linked to the nitrogenase activity, whereas the hydrogen evolution activity of the bidirectional hydrogenase is not dependent or even related to diazotrophic growth conditions. With regard to large-scale hydrogen evolution by N(2)-fixing cyanobacteria, hydrogen uptake-deficient mutants have to be used because of their inability to re-oxidize the hydrogen produced by the nitrogenase. On the other hand, fermentative H(2) production by the bidirectional hydrogenase should also be taken into account in further investigations of biological hydrogen production.