Scientists Discover First Nitrogen-Fixing Organelle within Eukaryotic Cell, Cover Story in April 12 Issue of Science

Modern biology textbooks assert that only bacteria can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form that is usable for life. Plants that fix nitrogen, such as legumes, do so by harboring symbiotic bacteria in root nodules. But a recent discovery upends that rule. In two recent papers, in Cell and Science, an international team of scientists describe the first known nitrogen-fixing organelle within a eukaryotic cell. The organelle is the fourth example in history of primary endosymbiosis — the process by which a prokaryotic cell is engulfed by a eukaryotic cell and evolves beyond symbiosis into an organelle.

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