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Nitrogenase inhibition limited oxygenation of Earth’s Proterozoic atmosphere

Allen, JF; Thake, B; Martin, WF; (2019) Nitrogenase inhibition limited oxygenation of Earth’s Proterozoic atmosphere. Trends in Plant Science , 24 (11) pp. 1022-1031. 10.1016/j.tplants.2019.07.007. Green open access

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Abstract

Cyanobacteria produced the oxygen that began to accumulate on Earth 2.5 billion years ago, at the dawn of the Proterozoic Eon. By 2.4 billion years ago, the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) marked the onset of an atmosphere containing oxygen. The oxygen content of the atmosphere then remained low for almost two billion years. Why? Nitrogenase, the sole nitrogen-fixing enzyme on Earth, controls the entry of molecular nitrogen into the biosphere. Nitrogenase is inhibited in air containing more than 2% oxygen: the concentration of oxygen in the Proterozoic atmosphere. We propose that oxygen inhibition of nitrogenase limited Proterozoic global primary production. Oxygen levels increased when upright terrestrial plants isolated nitrogen fixation in soil from photosynthetic oxygen production in shoots and leaves.

Type: Article
Title: Nitrogenase inhibition limited oxygenation of Earth’s Proterozoic atmosphere
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2019.07.007
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2019.07.007
Language: English
Additional information: ª2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).Trends in Plant Science
Keywords: cyanobacteria, atmospheric oxygen, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, heterocyst, boring billion
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077808
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