Nitrogenase Inhibition Limited Oxygenation of Earth's Proterozoic Atmosphere

John F. Allen, Brenda Thake, William F. Martin
2019 Trends in Plant Science  
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 2 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%
more » ... ning 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.
doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2019.07.007 pmid:31447302 fatcat:3m4rqa5htbhyxnvlfhv7wbhd6i