Anaerobic growth of a 'strict aerobe' (Bacillus subtilis)

Michiko M. Nakano, Peter Zuber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

253 Scopus citations


There was a long-held belief that the gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis is a strict aerobe. But recent studies have shown that B. subtilis will grow anaerobically, either by using nitrate or nitrite as a terminal electron acceptor, or by fermentation. How B. subtilis alters its metabolic activity according to the availability of oxygen and alternative electron acceptors is but one focus of study. A two-component signal transduction system composed of a sensor kinase, ResE, and a response regulator, ResD, occupies an early stage in the regulatory pathway governing anaerobic respiration. One of the essential roles of ResD and ResE in anaerobic gene regulation is induction of fnr transcription upon oxygen limitation. FNR is a transcriptional activator for anaerobically induced genes, including those for respiratory nitrate reductase, narGHJI.B. subtilis has two distinct nitrate reductases, one for the assimilation of nitrate nitrogen and the other for nitrate respiration. In contrast, one nitrite reductase functions both in nitrite nitrogen assimilation and nitrite respiration. Unlike many anaerobes, which use pyruvate formate lyase, B. subtilis can carry out fermentation in the absence of external electron acceptors wherein pyruvate dehydrogenase is utilized to metabolize pyruvate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-190
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Microbiology
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaerobiosis
  • Fermentation
  • Gene regulation
  • Nitrate respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Anaerobic growth of a 'strict aerobe' (Bacillus subtilis)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this