Nitrogenase Reveals Its Inner Secrets

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Science  06 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5587, pp. 1654-1655
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076659

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Nitrogen-fixing bacteria contain the enzyme nitrogenase that enables them to convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, which can then be used by plants for growth. In a Perspective, Smith discusses a new structural analysis of the MoFe protein of nitrogenase, which reveals the existence of an interstitial atom in the active site that may be nitrogen. This unexpected finding could help chemists to design a more efficient method for producing ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen.