Biology » Prokaryotes: Bacteria and Archaea » Beneficial Prokaryotes

Summarizing Beneficial Prokaryotes

Summary

Pathogens are only a small percentage of all prokaryotes. In fact, our life would not be possible without prokaryotes. Nitrogen is usually the most limiting element in terrestrial ecosystems; atmospheric nitrogen, the largest pool of available nitrogen, is unavailable to eukaryotes. Nitrogen can be “fixed,” or converted into ammonia (NH3) either biologically or abiotically. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is exclusively carried out by prokaryotes. After photosynthesis, BNF is the second most important biological process on Earth. The most important source of BNF is the symbiotic interaction between soil bacteria and legume plants.

Microbial bioremediation is the use of microbial metabolism to remove pollutants. Bioremediation has been used to remove agricultural chemicals that leach from soil into groundwater and the subsurface. Toxic metals and oxides, such as selenium and arsenic compounds, can also be removed by bioremediation. Probably one of the most useful and interesting examples of the use of prokaryotes for bioremediation purposes is the cleanup of oil spills.

Human life is only possible due to the action of microbes, both those in the environment and those species that call us home. Internally, they help us digest our food, produce crucial nutrients for us, protect us from pathogenic microbes, and help train our immune systems to function correctly.

Glossary

biological nitrogen fixation

conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia exclusively carried out by prokaryotes

bioremediation

use of microbial metabolism to remove pollutants

biotechnology

any technological application that uses living organisms, biological systems, or their derivatives to produce or modify other products

nodule

novel structure on the roots of certain plants (legumes) that results from the symbiotic interaction between the plant and soil bacteria, is the site of nitrogen fixation

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