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It has been predicted that the Rnf complex of Clostridium ljungdahlii is a proton-translocating ferredoxin:NAD+ oxidoreductase which contributes to ATP synthesis by an H+-translocating ATPase under both autotrophic and heterotrophic growth conditions. The recent development of methods for genetic manipulation of C. ljungdahlii made it possible to evaluate the possible role of the Rnf complex in energy conservation. Disruption of the C. ljungdahlii rnf operon inhibited autotrophic growth. ATP synthesis, proton gradient, membrane potential, and proton motive force collapsed in the Rnf-deficient mutant with H2 as the electron source and CO2 as the electron acceptor. Heterotrophic growth was hindered in the absence of a functional Rnf complex, as ATP synthesis, proton gradient, and proton motive force were significantly reduced with fructose as the electron donor. Growth of the Rnf-deficient mutant was also inhibited when no source of fixed nitrogen was provided. These results demonstrate that the Rnf complex of C. ljungdahlii is responsible for translocation of protons across the membrane to elicit energy conservation during acetogenesis and is a multifunctional device also implicated in nitrogen fixation.






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