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1.  Detection of Prochlorothrix in Brackish Waters by Specific Amplification of pcb Genes 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(10):6243-6249.
Prochlorothrix hollandica is the only filamentous chlorophyll b (Chlb)-containing oxyphotobacterium that has been found in freshwater habitats to date. Chlb serves as a light-harvesting pigment which is bound to special binding proteins (Pcb). Even though Prochlorothrix was initially characterized as a highly salt-sensitive species, we detected it in a brackish water environment that is characterized by salinities of up to 12 practical salinity units. Using PCR and reverse transcription, we amplified pcb gene fragments of phytoplankton samples taken along a salinity gradient in the eutrophic Darss-Zingst estuary (southern Baltic Sea). After sequencing, high levels of homology to the pcbB and pcbC genes of P. hollandica were found. Furthermore, autofluorescence of Prochlorothrix-like filaments that indicated that Chlb was present was detected in enrichment cultures prepared from the estuarine phytoplankton. The detection of Chlb-containing filaments, as well as the pcb and 16S ribosomal DNA sequences, suggests that Prochlorothrix is an indigenous genus in the Darss-Zingst estuary and may also inhabit many other brackish water environments. The potential of using pcb gene detection to differentiate Prochlorothrix from morphologically indistinguishable species belonging to the genera Pseudanabaena and Planktothrix (Oscillatoria) in phytoplankton analyses is discussed.
PMCID: PMC201227  PMID: 14532086
2.  Photosynthesis of Prochlorothrix hollandica under Sulfide-Rich Anoxic Conditions 
The photosynthetic activity and photosystem II fluorescence of Prochlorothrix hollandica were studied under anoxic, sulfide-rich conditions. Oxygenic photosynthetic activity with water as the electron donor was highly resistant to inhibition by sulfide. Cells still retained 50% of their oxygenic photosynthetic activity at >1 mM sulfide. In the presence of DCMU [N-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-N(prm1)-dimethylurea], an inhibitor of photosystem II activity, P. hollandica cells exhibited a low but significant anoxygenic photosynthetic activity when sulfide was present. This activity increased with higher sulfide concentrations and reached maximal rates at concentrations exceeding 1 mM sulfide. The effects of hydroxylamine on both oxygen evolution and fluorescence induction kinetics were similar to those observed for sulfide. It was concluded that the oxidizing site of photosystem II was the site of sulfide action leading to reduced or even fully inhibited electron donation to photosystem II. These observations bear similarity to the situation in some cyanobacteria in which both hydroxylamine and sulfide inhibit electron donation from H(inf2)O to P(inf680). The high resistance of photosystem II to sulfide is related to the hydrophobic nature of the manganese-stabilizing protein in P. hollandica (T. S. Mor, A. F. Post, and I. Ohad, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1141:206-212, 1993). The observed sulfide tolerance of P. hollandica may confer a competitive advantage in its natural environment, where it forms a dominant fraction of phytoplankton in waters in which sulfide presence is a recurring phenomenon.
PMCID: PMC1389245  PMID: 16535689
3.  Peptidoglycan-polysaccharide complex in the cell wall of the filamentous prochlorophyte Prochlorothrix hollandica. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1989;171(1):498-502.
A peptidoglycan-polysaccharide complex composed of N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetylmuramic acid, muramic acid 6-phosphate, L-alanine, D-alanine, D-glutamic acid, meso-diaminopimelic acid, N-acetylmannosamine, mannose, galactose, glucose, and phosphate was isolated from cell walls of the filamentous prochlorophyte Prochlorothrix hollandica; this complex was similar in chemical composition and structure to that found in cyanobacteria. Peptide patterns of partial acid hydrolysates of the isolated peptidoglycan revealed an A1 gamma structure with direct cross-linkage (m-diaminopimelic acid-D-alanine) of the peptide side chains. The degree of cross-linkage (63%) was found to be in the range of values obtained for gram-positive bacteria and cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC209614  PMID: 2914854
4.  Signature proteins for the major clades of Cyanobacteria 
The phylogeny and taxonomy of cyanobacteria is currently poorly understood due to paucity of reliable markers for identification and circumscription of its major clades.
A combination of phylogenomic and protein signature based approaches was used to characterize the major clades of cyanobacteria. Phylogenetic trees were constructed for 44 cyanobacteria based on 44 conserved proteins. In parallel, Blastp searches were carried out on each ORF in the genomes of Synechococcus WH8102, Synechocystis PCC6803, Nostoc PCC7120, Synechococcus JA-3-3Ab, Prochlorococcus MIT9215 and Prochlor. marinus subsp. marinus CCMP1375 to identify proteins that are specific for various main clades of cyanobacteria. These studies have identified 39 proteins that are specific for all (or most) cyanobacteria and large numbers of proteins for other cyanobacterial clades. The identified signature proteins include: (i) 14 proteins for a deep branching clade (Clade A) of Gloebacter violaceus and two diazotrophic Synechococcus strains (JA-3-3Ab and JA2-3-B'a); (ii) 5 proteins that are present in all other cyanobacteria except those from Clade A; (iii) 60 proteins that are specific for a clade (Clade C) consisting of various marine unicellular cyanobacteria (viz. Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus); (iv) 14 and 19 signature proteins that are specific for the Clade C Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus strains, respectively; (v) 67 proteins that are specific for the Low B/A ecotype Prochlorococcus strains, containing lower ratio of chl b/a2 and adapted to growth at high light intensities; (vi) 65 and 8 proteins that are specific for the Nostocales and Chroococcales orders, respectively; and (vii) 22 and 9 proteins that are uniquely shared by various Nostocales and Oscillatoriales orders, or by these two orders and the Chroococcales, respectively. We also describe 3 conserved indels in flavoprotein, heme oxygenase and protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase proteins that are specific for either Clade C cyanobacteria or for various subclades of Prochlorococcus. Many other conserved indels for cyanobacterial clades have been described recently.
These signature proteins and indels provide novel means for circumscription of various cyanobacterial clades in clear molecular terms. Their functional studies should lead to discovery of novel properties that are unique to these groups of cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC2823733  PMID: 20100331
5.  Cyanobacteria toxins in the Salton Sea 
Saline Systems  2006;2:5.
The Salton Sea (SS) is the largest inland body of water in California: surface area 980 km2, volume 7.3 million acre-feet, 58 km long, 14–22 km wide, maximum depth 15 m. Located in the southeastern Sonoran desert of California, it is 85 m below sea level at its lowest point. It was formed between 1905 and 1907 from heavy river flows of the Colorado River. Since its formation, it has attracted both people and wildlife, including flocks of migratory birds that have made the Salton Sea a critical stopover on the Pacific flyway. Over the past 15 years wintering populations of eared grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) at the Salton Sea, have experienced over 200,000 mortalities. The cause of these large die-offs remains unknown. The unique environmental conditions of the Salton Sea, including salinities from brackish freshwater at river inlets to hypersaline conditions, extreme daily summer temperatures (>38°C), and high nutrient loading from rivers and agricultural drainage favor eutrophic conditions that encourage algal blooms throughout the year. A significant component of these algal blooms are the prokaryotic group – the Cyanophyta or blue-green algae (also called Cyanobacteria). Since many Cyanobacteria produce toxins (the cyanotoxins) it became important to evaluate their presence and to determine if they are a contributing factor in eared-grebe mortalities at the Salton Sea.
From November 1999 to April 2001, 247 water and sediment samples were received for phytoplankton identification and cyanotoxin analyses. Immunoassay (ELISA) screening of these samples found that eighty five percent of all water samples contained low but detectable levels of the potent cyclic peptide liver toxin called microcystins. Isolation and identification of cyanobacteria isolates showed that the picoplanktonic Synechococcus and the benthic filamentous Oscillatoria were dominant. Both organisms were found to produce microcystins dominated by microcystin-LR and YR. A laboratory strain of Synechococcus was identified by PCR as being closest to known marine forms of this genus. Analyses of affected grebe livers found microcystins at levels that may account for some of the acute mortalities.
The production of microcystins by a marine Synechococcus indicates that microcystins may be a more common occurrence in marine environments – a finding not recognized before this work. Further research should be done to define the distribution of microcystin producing marine cyanobacteria and to determine exposure/response effects of microcystins and possibly other cyanotoxins in the Salton Sea. Future efforts to reduce avian mortalities and remediate the Salton Sea should evaluate vectors by which microcystins enter avian species and ways to control and mitigate toxic cyanobacteria waterblooms at the Salton Sea.
PMCID: PMC1472689  PMID: 16623944
6.  Facilitation of Robust Growth of Prochlorococcus Colonies and Dilute Liquid Cultures by “Helper” Heterotrophic Bacteria▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(14):4530-4534.
Axenic (pure) cultures of marine unicellular cyanobacteria of the Prochlorococcus genus grow efficiently only if the inoculation concentration is large; colonies form on semisolid medium at low efficiencies. In this work, we describe a novel method for growing Prochlorococcus colonies on semisolid agar that improves the level of recovery to approximately 100%. Prochlorococcus grows robustly at low cell concentrations, in liquid or on solid medium, when cocultured with marine heterotrophic bacteria. Once the Prochlorococcus cell concentration surpasses a critical threshold, the “helper” heterotrophs can be eliminated with antibiotics to produce axenic cultures. Our preliminary evidence suggests that one mechanism by which the heterotrophs help Prochlorococcus is the reduction of oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC2493173  PMID: 18502916
7.  Genome-wide analysis of putative peroxiredoxin in unicellular and filamentous cyanobacteria 
Cyanobacteria are photoautotrophic prokaryotes with wide variations in genome sizes and ecological habitats. Peroxiredoxin (PRX) is an important protein that plays essential roles in protecting own cells against reactive oxygen species (ROS). PRXs have been identified from mammals, fungi and higher plants. However, knowledge on cyanobacterial PRXs still remains obscure. With the availability of 37 sequenced cyanobacterial genomes, we performed a comprehensive comparative analysis of PRXs and explored their diversity, distribution, domain structure and evolution.
Overall 244 putative prx genes were identified, which were abundant in filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria, Acaryochloris marina MBIC 11017, and unicellular cyanobacteria inhabiting freshwater and hot-springs, while poor in all Prochlorococcus and marine Synechococcus strains. Among these putative genes, 25 open reading frames (ORFs) encoding hypothetical proteins were identified as prx gene family members and the others were already annotated as prx genes. All 244 putative PRXs were classified into five major subfamilies (1-Cys, 2-Cys, BCP, PRX5_like, and PRX-like) according to their domain structures. The catalytic motifs of the cyanobacterial PRXs were similar to those of eukaryotic PRXs and highly conserved in all but the PRX-like subfamily. Classical motif (CXXC) of thioredoxin was detected in protein sequences from the PRX-like subfamily. Phylogenetic tree constructed of catalytic domains coincided well with the domain structures of PRXs and the phylogenies based on 16s rRNA.
The distribution of genes encoding PRXs in different unicellular and filamentous cyanobacteria especially those sub-families like PRX-like or 1-Cys PRX correlate with the genome size, eco-physiology, and physiological properties of the organisms. Cyanobacterial and eukaryotic PRXs share similar conserved motifs, indicating that cyanobacteria adopt similar catalytic mechanisms as eukaryotes. All cyanobacterial PRX proteins share highly similar structures, implying that these genes may originate from a common ancestor. In this study, a general framework of the sequence-structure-function connections of the PRXs was revealed, which may facilitate functional investigations of PRXs in various organisms.
PMCID: PMC3514251  PMID: 23157370
Peroxiredoxin; Structure; Phylogeny and evolution; Comparative genomics; Cyanobacteria
8.  Genome-wide comparative analysis of metacaspases in unicellular and filamentous cyanobacteria 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:198.
Cyanobacteria are an ancient group of photoautotrophic prokaryotes with wide variations in genome size and ecological habitat. Metacaspases (MCAs) are cysteine proteinases that have sequence homology to caspases and play essential roles in programmed cell death (PCD). MCAs have been identified in several prokaryotes, fungi and plants; however, knowledge about cyanobacterial metacaspases still remains obscure. With the availability of sequenced genomes of 33 cyanobacteria, we perform a comparative analysis of metacaspases and explore their distribution, domain structure and evolution.
A total of 58 putative MCAs were identified, which are abundant in filamentous diazotrophic cyanobacteria and Acaryochloris marina MBIC 11017 and absent in all Prochlorococcus and marine Synechococcus strains, except Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. The Cys-His dyad of caspase superfamily is conserved, while mutations (Tyr in place of His and Ser/Asn/Gln/Gly instead of Cys) are also detected in some cyanobacteria. MCAs can be classified into two major families (α and β) based on the additional domain structure. Ten types and a total of 276 additional domains were identified, most of which involves in signal transduction. Apoptotic related NACHT domain was also found in two cyanobacterial MCAs. Phylogenetic tree of MCA catalytic P20 domains coincides well with the domain structure and the phylogenies based on 16s rRNA.
The existence and quantity of MCA genes in unicellular and filamentous cyanobacteria are a function of the genome size and ecological habitat. MCAs of family α and β seem to evolve separately and the recruitment of WD40 additional domain occurs later than the divergence of the two families. In this study, a general framework of sequence-structure-function connections for the metacaspases has been revealed, which may provide new targets for function investigation.
PMCID: PMC2853523  PMID: 20334693
9.  Development of a Universal Microarray Based on the Ligation Detection Reaction and 16S rRNA Gene Polymorphism To Target Diversity of Cyanobacteria 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):7161-7172.
The cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes of significant ecological and biotechnological interest, since they strongly contribute to primary production and are a rich source of bioactive compounds. In eutrophic fresh and brackish waters, their mass occurrences (water blooms) are often toxic and constitute a high potential risk for human health. Therefore, rapid and reliable identification of cyanobacterial species in complex environmental samples is important. Here we describe the development and validation of a microarray for the identification of cyanobacteria in aquatic environments. Our approach is based on the use of a ligation detection reaction coupled to a universal array. Probes were designed for detecting 19 cyanobacterial groups including Anabaena/Aphanizomenon, Calothrix, Cylindrospermopsis, Cylindrospermum, Gloeothece, halotolerants, Leptolyngbya, Palau Lyngbya, Microcystis, Nodularia, Nostoc, Planktothrix, Antarctic Phormidium, Prochlorococcus, Spirulina, Synechococcus, Synechocystis, Trichodesmium, and Woronichinia. These groups were identified based on an alignment of over 300 cyanobacterial 16S rRNA sequences. For validation of the microarrays, 95 samples (24 axenic strains from culture collections, 27 isolated strains, and 44 cloned fragments recovered from environmental samples) were tested. The results demonstrated a high discriminative power and sensitivity to 1 fmol of the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene. Accurate identification of target strains was also achieved with unbalanced mixes of PCR amplicons from different cyanobacteria and an environmental sample. Our universal array method shows great potential for rapid and reliable identification of cyanobacteria. It can be easily adapted to future development and could thus be applied both in research and environmental monitoring.
PMCID: PMC535161  PMID: 15574913
10.  Isolation and Characterization of the Prochlorococcus Carboxysome Reveal the Presence of the Novel Shell Protein CsoS1D 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(4):787-795.
Cyanobacteria, including members of the genus Prochlorococcus, contain icosahedral protein microcompartments known as carboxysomes that encapsulate multiple copies of the CO2-fixing enzyme ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) in a thin protein shell that enhances the catalytic performance of the enzyme in part through the action of a shell-associated carbonic anhydrase. However, the exact mechanism by which compartmentation provides a catalytic advantage to the enzyme is not known. Complicating the study of cyanobacterial carboxysomes has been the inability to obtain homogeneous carboxysome preparations. This study describes the first successful purification and characterization of carboxysomes from the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus MED4. Because the isolated P. marinus MED4 carboxysomes were free from contaminating membrane proteins, their protein complement could be assessed. In addition to the expected shell proteins, the CsoS1D protein that is not encoded by the canonical cso gene clusters of α-cyanobacteria was found to be a low-abundance shell component. This finding and supporting comparative genomic evidence have important implications for carboxysome composition, structure, and function. Our study indicates that carboxysome composition is probably more complex than was previously assumed based on the gene complements of the classical cso gene clusters.
PMCID: PMC3272956  PMID: 22155772
11.  Characterization of Cyanate Metabolism in Marine Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus spp. ▿  
Cyanobacteria of the genera Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are the most abundant photosynthetic organisms on earth, occupying a key position at the base of marine food webs. The cynS gene that encodes cyanase was identified among bacterial, fungal, and plant sequences in public databases, and the gene was particularly prevalent among cyanobacteria, including numerous Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus strains. Phylogenetic analysis of cynS sequences retrieved from the Global Ocean Survey database identified >60% as belonging to unicellular marine cyanobacteria, suggesting an important role for cyanase in their nitrogen metabolism. We demonstrate here that marine cyanobacteria have a functionally active cyanase, the transcriptional regulation of which varies among strains and reflects the genomic context of cynS. In Prochlorococcus sp. strain MED4, cynS was presumably transcribed as part of the cynABDS operon, implying cyanase involvement in cyanate utilization. In Synechococcus sp. strain WH8102, expression was not related to nitrogen stress responses and here cyanase presumably serves in the detoxification of cyanate resulting from intracellular urea and/or carbamoyl phosphate decomposition. Lastly, we report on a cyanase activity encoded by cynH, a novel gene found in marine cyanobacteria only. The presence of dual cyanase genes in the genomes of seven marine Synechococcus strains and their respective roles in nitrogen metabolism remain to be clarified.
PMCID: PMC3019706  PMID: 21057026
12.  Novel Metabolic Attributes of the Genus Cyanothece, Comprising a Group of Unicellular Nitrogen-Fixing Cyanobacteria 
mBio  2011;2(5):e00214-11.
The genus Cyanothece comprises unicellular cyanobacteria that are morphologically diverse and ecologically versatile. Studies over the last decade have established members of this genus to be important components of the marine ecosystem, contributing significantly to the nitrogen and carbon cycle. System-level studies of Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142, a prototypic member of this group, revealed many interesting metabolic attributes. To identify the metabolic traits that define this class of cyanobacteria, five additional Cyanothece strains were sequenced to completion. The presence of a large, contiguous nitrogenase gene cluster and the ability to carry out aerobic nitrogen fixation distinguish Cyanothece as a genus of unicellular, aerobic nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. Cyanothece cells can create an anoxic intracellular environment at night, allowing oxygen-sensitive processes to take place in these oxygenic organisms. Large carbohydrate reserves accumulate in the cells during the day, ensuring sufficient energy for the processes that require the anoxic phase of the cells. Our study indicates that this genus maintains a plastic genome, incorporating new metabolic capabilities while simultaneously retaining archaic metabolic traits, a unique combination which provides the flexibility to adapt to various ecological and environmental conditions. Rearrangement of the nitrogenase cluster in Cyanothece sp. strain 7425 and the concomitant loss of its aerobic nitrogen-fixing ability suggest that a similar mechanism might have been at play in cyanobacterial strains that eventually lost their nitrogen-fixing ability.
The unicellular cyanobacterial genus Cyanothece has significant roles in the nitrogen cycle in aquatic and terrestrial environments. Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142 was extensively studied over the last decade and has emerged as an important model photosynthetic microbe for bioenergy production. To expand our understanding of the distinctive metabolic capabilities of this cyanobacterial group, we analyzed the genome sequences of five additional Cyanothece strains from different geographical habitats, exhibiting diverse morphological and physiological attributes. These strains exhibit high rates of N2 fixation and H2 production under aerobic conditions. They can generate copious amounts of carbohydrates that are stored in large starch-like granules and facilitate energy-intensive processes during the dark, anoxic phase of the cells. The genomes of some Cyanothece strains are quite unique in that there are linear elements in addition to a large circular chromosome. Our study provides novel insights into the metabolism of this class of unicellular nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3187577  PMID: 21972240
13.  Evidence for the Intense Exchange of MazG in Marine Cyanophages by Horizontal Gene Transfer 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2048.
S-PM2 is a phage capable of infecting strains of unicellular cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Synechococcus. S-PM2, like other myoviruses infecting marine cyanobacteria, encodes a number of bacterial-like genes. Amongst these genes is one encoding a MazG homologue that is hypothesized to be involved in the adaption of the infected host for production of progeny phage.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This study focuses on establishing the occurrence of mazG homologues in other cyanophages isolated from different oceanic locations. Degenerate PCR primers were designed using the mazG gene of S-PM2. The mazG gene was found to be widely distributed and highly conserved among Synechococcus myoviruses and podoviruses from diverse oceanic provinces.
This study provides evidence of a globally connected cyanophage gene pool, the cyanophage mazG gene having a small effective population size indicative of rapid lateral gene transfer despite being present in a substantial fraction of cyanophage. The Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus phage mazG genes do not cluster with the host mazG gene, suggesting that their primary hosts are not the source of the mazG gene.
PMCID: PMC2297514  PMID: 18431505
14.  Intertwined Evolutionary Histories of Marine Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus marinus 
Prochlorococcus is a genus of marine cyanobacteria characterized by small cell and genome size, an evolutionary trend toward low GC content, the possession of chlorophyll b, and the absence of phycobilisomes. Whereas many shared derived characters define Prochlorococcus as a clade, many genome-based analyses recover them as paraphyletic, with some low-light adapted Prochlorococcus spp. grouping with marine Synechococcus. Here, we use 18 Prochlorococcus and marine Synechococcus genomes to analyze gene flow within and between these taxa. We introduce embedded quartet scatter plots as a tool to screen for genes whose phylogeny agrees or conflicts with the plurality phylogenetic signal, with accepted taxonomy and naming, with GC content, and with the ecological adaptation to high and low light intensities. We find that most gene families support high-light adapted Prochlorococcus spp. as a monophyletic clade and low-light adapted Prochlorococcus sp. as a paraphyletic group. But we also detect 16 gene families that were transferred between high-light adapted and low-light adapted Prochlorococcus sp. and 495 gene families, including 19 ribosomal proteins, that do not cluster designated Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus strains in the expected manner. To explain the observed data, we propose that frequent gene transfer between marine Synechococcus spp. and low-light adapted Prochlorococcus spp. has created a “highway of gene sharing” (Beiko RG, Harlow TJ, Ragan MA. 2005. Highways of gene sharing in prokaryotes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 102:14332–14337) that tends to erode genus boundaries without erasing the Prochlorococcus-specific ecological adaptations.
PMCID: PMC2817427  PMID: 20333202
marine cyanobacteria; horizontal gene transfer; introgression; quartet decomposition; supertree; genome evolution
15.  Cyanobacterial Diversity and a New Acaryochloris-Like Symbiont from Bahamian Sea-Squirts 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23938.
Symbiotic interactions between ascidians (sea-squirts) and microbes are poorly understood. Here we characterized the cyanobacteria in the tissues of 8 distinct didemnid taxa from shallow-water marine habitats in the Bahamas Islands by sequencing a fragment of the cyanobacterial 16S rRNA gene and the entire 16S–23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) and by examining symbiont morphology with transmission electron (TEM) and confocal microscopy (CM). As described previously for other species, Trididemnum spp. mostly contained symbionts associated with the Prochloron-Synechocystis group. However, sequence analysis of the symbionts in Lissoclinum revealed two unique clades. The first contained a novel cyanobacterial clade, while the second clade was closely associated with Acaryochloris marina. CM revealed the presence of chlorophyll d (chl d) and phycobiliproteins (PBPs) within these symbiont cells, as is characteristic of Acaryochloris species. The presence of symbionts was also observed by TEM inside the tunic of both the adult and larvae of L. fragile, indicating vertical transmission to progeny. Based on molecular phylogenetic and microscopic analyses, Candidatus Acaryochloris bahamiensis nov. sp. is proposed for this symbiotic cyanobacterium. Our results support the hypothesis that photosymbiont communities in ascidians are structured by host phylogeny, but in some cases, also by sampling location.
PMCID: PMC3161822  PMID: 21915246
16.  Phenotypic and Genotypic Comparison of Symbiotic and Free-Living Cyanobacteria from a Single Field Site 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1997;63(11):4479-4484.
PCR amplification techniques were used to compare cyanobacterial symbionts from a cyanobacterium-bryophyte symbiosis and free-living cyanobacteria from the same field site. Thirty-one symbiotic cyanobacteria were isolated from the hornwort Phaeoceros sp. at several closely spaced locations, and 40 free-living cyanobacteria were isolated from the immediate vicinity of the same plants. One of the symbiotic isolates was a species of Calothrix, a genus not previously known to form bryophyte symbioses, and the remainder were Nostoc spp. Of the free-living strains, two were Calothrix spp., three were Chlorogloeopsis spp. and the rest were Nostoc spp. All of the symbiotic and all but one of the free-living strains were able to reconstitute the symbiosis with axenic cultures of both Phaeoceros and the liverwort Blasia sp. Axenic cyanobacterial strains were compared by DNA amplification using PCR with either short arbitrary primers or primers specific for the regions flanking the 16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer. With one exception, the two techniques produced complementary results and confirmed for the first time that a diversity of symbiotic cyanobacteria infect Phaeoceros in the field. Symbionts from adjacent colonies were different as often as they were the same, showing that the same thallus could be infected with many different cyanobacterial strains. Strains found to be identical by the techniques employed here were often found as symbionts in different thalli at the same locale but were never found free-living. Only one of the free-living strains, and none of the symbiotic strains, was found at more than one sample site, implying a highly localized distribution of strains.
PMCID: PMC1389290  PMID: 16535734
17.  Comparative Analysis of Fatty Acid Desaturases in Cyanobacterial Genomes 
Fatty acid desaturases are enzymes that introduce double bonds into the hydrocarbon chains of fatty acids. The fatty acid desaturases from 37 cyanobacterial genomes were identified and classified based upon their conserved histidine-rich motifs and phylogenetic analysis, which help to determine the amounts and distributions of desaturases in cyanobacterial species. The filamentous or N2-fixing cyanobacteria usually possess more types of fatty acid desaturases than that of unicellular species. The pathway of acyl-lipid desaturation for unicellular marine cyanobacteria Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus differs from that of other cyanobacteria, indicating different phylogenetic histories of the two genera from other cyanobacteria isolated from freshwater, soil, or symbiont. Strain Gloeobacter violaceus PCC 7421 was isolated from calcareous rock and lacks thylakoid membranes. The types and amounts of desaturases of this strain are distinct to those of other cyanobacteria, reflecting the earliest divergence of it from the cyanobacterial line. Three thermophilic unicellular strains, Thermosynechococcus elongatus BP-1 and two Synechococcus Yellowstone species, lack highly unsaturated fatty acids in lipids and contain only one Δ9 desaturase in contrast with mesophilic strains, which is probably due to their thermic habitats. Thus, the amounts and types of fatty acid desaturases are various among different cyanobacterial species, which may result from the adaption to environments in evolution.
PMCID: PMC2593844  PMID: 19096516
18.  T4 genes in the marine ecosystem: studies of the T4-like cyanophages and their role in marine ecology 
Virology Journal  2010;7:291.
From genomic sequencing it has become apparent that the marine cyanomyoviruses capable of infecting strains of unicellular cyanobacteria assigned to the genera Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are not only morphologically similar to T4, but are also genetically related, typically sharing some 40-48 genes. The large majority of these common genes are the same in all marine cyanomyoviruses so far characterized. Given the fundamental physiological differences between marine unicellular cyanobacteria and heterotrophic hosts of T4-like phages it is not surprising that the study of cyanomyoviruses has revealed novel and fascinating facets of the phage-host relationship. One of the most interesting features of the marine cyanomyoviruses is their possession of a number of genes that are clearly of host origin such as those involved in photosynthesis, like the psbA gene that encodes a core component of the photosystem II reaction centre. Other host-derived genes encode enzymes involved in carbon metabolism, phosphate acquisition and ppGpp metabolism. The impact of these host-derived genes on phage fitness has still largely to be assessed and represents one of the most important topics in the study of this group of T4-like phages in the laboratory. However, these phages are also of considerable environmental significance by virtue of their impact on key contributors to oceanic primary production and the true extent and nature of this impact has still to be accurately assessed.
PMCID: PMC2984593  PMID: 21029435
19.  Crystal structures of virus-like photosystem I complexes from the mesophilic cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 
eLife  2014;3:e01496.
Oxygenic photosynthesis supports virtually all life forms on earth. Light energy is converted by two photosystems—photosystem I (PSI) and photosystem II (PSII). Globally, nearly 50% of photosynthesis takes place in the Ocean, where single cell cyanobacteria and algae reside together with their viruses. An operon encoding PSI was identified in cyanobacterial marine viruses. We generated a PSI that mimics the salient features of the viral complex, named PSIPsaJF. PSIPsaJF is promiscuous for its electron donors and can accept electrons from respiratory cytochromes. We solved the structure of PSIPsaJF and a monomeric PSI, with subunit composition similar to the viral PSI, providing for the first time a detailed description of the reaction center and antenna system from mesophilic cyanobacteria, including red chlorophylls and cofactors of the electron transport chain. Our finding extends the understanding of PSI structure, function and evolution and suggests a unique function for the viral PSI.
eLife digest
Photosynthesis—the process by which plants and other organisms harness the energy in sunlight—is the source of almost all oxygen, food and fuel on earth. Oxygenic photosynthesis in living cells involves a series of reactions catalyzed by large protein complexes, various other soluble chemicals, and the transfer of electrons from so-called donors to acceptors. The energy in the sunlight is captured by two membrane-embedded protein complexes—photosystem I, which is the most powerful electron donor in nature, and photosystem II—and converted into chemical energy.
Almost half of the world’s photosynthesis occurs in the oceans, and is performed by single-celled cyanobacteria and algae. Interestingly, some of the genes that encode photosynthetic enzymes in cyanobacteria are also found in the genomes of viruses that infect these bacteria. It is thought that these viruses can alter photosynthetic pathways in their hosts, but the interactions between these viruses and their hosts are not fully understood.
Now, Mazor et al. have created a photosystem I complex that mimics the viral version of this complex, and have gone on to solve its three-dimensional structure. This mimetic virus-encoded complex was shown to be a ‘promiscuous’ electron acceptor: this means that, unlike most electron acceptors, it can accept electrons from more than one electron donor.
Further, Mazor et al. solved the structure of photosystem I from Synechocystis, a cyanobacterium that lives in fresh water; and found some surprising differences between it and the only other published structure for photosystem I from a cyanobacterium (which was from a species that lives in hot water springs). These included differences in components involved in the electron transfer chain—a series of chemical reactions in which electrons are passed from donor to acceptor molecules—that were thought to be highly conserved. Other differences in the structures allowed Mazor et al. to identify the location of a unique chlorophyll pigment group in the Synechocystis photosystem I.
Since Synechocystis is commonly used as a model to study photosynthesis, an improved understanding of its photosystem I should lead to further improvements in our knowledge of photosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3903132  PMID: 24473073
cyanobacteria; electron transfer; photosynthesis; Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803; viruses; other
20.  Dinitrogen fixation in a unicellular chlorophyll d-containing cyanobacterium 
The ISME Journal  2012;6(7):1367-1377.
Marine cyanobacteria of the genus Acaryochloris are the only known organisms that use chlorophyll d as a photosynthetic pigment. However, based on chemical sediment analyses, chlorophyll d has been recognized to be widespread in oceanic and lacustrine environments. Therefore it is highly relevant to understand the genetic basis for different physiologies and possible niche adaptation in this genus. Here we show that unlike all other known isolates of Acaryochloris, the strain HICR111A, isolated from waters around Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, possesses a unique genomic region containing all the genes for the structural and enzymatically active proteins of nitrogen fixation and cofactor biosynthesis. Their phylogenetic analysis suggests a close relation to nitrogen fixation genes from certain other marine cyanobacteria. We show that nitrogen fixation in Acaryochloris sp. HICR111A is regulated in a light–dark-dependent fashion. We conclude that nitrogen fixation, one of the most complex physiological traits known in bacteria, might be transferred among oceanic microbes by horizontal gene transfer more often than anticipated so far. Our data show that the two powerful processes of oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation co-occur in one and the same cell also in this branch of marine microbes and characterize Acaryochloris as a physiologically versatile inhabitant of an ecological niche, which is primarily driven by the absorption of far-red light.
PMCID: PMC3379635  PMID: 22237545
Acaryochloris; chlorophyll d; cyanobacteria; dinitrogen fixation; microbial diversity; nitrogenase
21.  Glucose Uptake and Its Effect on Gene Expression in Prochlorococcus 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3416.
The marine cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus have been considered photoautotrophic microorganisms, although the utilization of exogenous sugars has never been specifically addressed in them. We studied glucose uptake in different high irradiance- and low irradiance-adapted Prochlorococcus strains, as well as the effect of glucose addition on the expression of several glucose-related genes. Glucose uptake was measured by adding radiolabelled glucose to Prochlorococcus cultures, followed by flow cytometry coupled with cell sorting in order to separate Prochlorococcus cells from bacterial contaminants. Sorted cells were recovered by filtration and their radioactivity measured. The expression, after glucose addition, of several genes (involved in glucose metabolism, and in nitrogen assimilation and its regulation) was determined in the low irradiance-adapted Prochlorococcus SS120 strain by semi-quantitative real time RT-PCR, using the rnpB gene as internal control. Our results demonstrate for the first time that the Prochlorococcus strains studied in this work take up glucose at significant rates even at concentrations close to those found in the oceans, and also exclude the possibility of this uptake being carried out by eventual bacterial contaminants, since only Prochlorococcus cells were used for radioactivity measurements. Besides, we show that the expression of a number of genes involved in glucose utilization (namely zwf, gnd and dld, encoding glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase and lactate dehydrogenase, respectively) is strongly increased upon glucose addition to cultures of the SS120 strain. This fact, taken together with the magnitude of the glucose uptake, clearly indicates the physiological importance of the phenomenon. Given the significant contribution of Prochlorococcus to the global primary production, these findings have strong implications for the understanding of the phytoplankton role in the carbon cycle in nature. Besides, the ability of assimilating carbon molecules could provide additional hints to comprehend the ecological success of Prochlorococcus.
PMCID: PMC2565063  PMID: 18941506
22.  Bioactivity of Benthic and Picoplanktonic Estuarine Cyanobacteria on Growth of Photoautotrophs: Inhibition versus Stimulation 
Marine Drugs  2011;9(5):790-802.
Understanding potential biochemical interactions and effects among cyanobacteria and other organisms is one of the main keys to a better knowledge of microbial population structuring and dynamics. In this study, the effects of cyanobacteria from benthos and plankton of estuaries on other cyanobacteria and green algae growth were evaluated. To understand how the estuarine cyanobacteria might influence the dynamics of phytoplankton, experiments were carried out with the freshwater species Microcystis aeruginosa and Chlorella sp., and the marine Synechocystis salina and Nannochloropsis sp. exposed to aqueous and organic (70% methanol) crude extracts of cyanobacteria for 96 h. The most pronounced effect observed was the growth stimulation. Growth inhibition was also observed for S. salina and M. aeruginosa target-species at the highest and lowest concentrations of cyanobacterial extracts. The methanolic crude extract of Phormidium cf. chalybeum LEGE06078 was effective against S. salina growth in a concentration-dependent manner after 96 h-exposure. All of the cyanobacterial isolates showed some bioactivity on the target-species growth, i.e., inhibitory or stimulating effects. These results indicate that the analyzed cyanobacterial isolates can potentially contribute to blooms’ proliferation of other cyanobacteria and to the abnormal growth of green algae disturbing the dynamic of estuarine phytoplankton communities. Since estuaries are transitional ecosystems, the benthic and picoplanktonic estuarine cyanobacteria can change both freshwater and marine phytoplankton succession, competition and bloom formation. Furthermore, a potential biotechnological application of these isolates as a tool to control cyanobacteria and microalgae proliferation can be feasible. This work is the first on the subject of growth responses of photoautotrophs to cyanobacteria from Atlantic estuarine environments.
PMCID: PMC3111182  PMID: 21673889
allelopathy (negative); Atlantic estuarine environments; benthic; cyanobacteria; growth stimulation; picoplanktonic; Phormidium cf. chalybeum
23.  Dependence of the Cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus on Hydrogen Peroxide Scavenging Microbes for Growth at the Ocean's Surface 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16805.
The phytoplankton community in the oligotrophic open ocean is numerically dominated by the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, accounting for approximately half of all photosynthesis. In the illuminated euphotic zone where Prochlorococcus grows, reactive oxygen species are continuously generated via photochemical reactions with dissolved organic matter. However, Prochlorococcus genomes lack catalase and additional protective mechanisms common in other aerobes, and this genus is highly susceptible to oxidative damage from hydrogen peroxide (HOOH). In this study we showed that the extant microbial community plays a vital, previously unrecognized role in cross-protecting Prochlorococcus from oxidative damage in the surface mixed layer of the oligotrophic ocean. Microbes are the primary HOOH sink in marine systems, and in the absence of the microbial community, surface waters in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean accumulated HOOH to concentrations that were lethal for Prochlorococcus cultures. In laboratory experiments with the marine heterotroph Alteromonas sp., serving as a proxy for the natural community of HOOH-degrading microbes, bacterial depletion of HOOH from the extracellular milieu prevented oxidative damage to the cell envelope and photosystems of co-cultured Prochlorococcus, and facilitated the growth of Prochlorococcus at ecologically-relevant cell concentrations. Curiously, the more recently evolved lineages of Prochlorococcus that exploit the surface mixed layer niche were also the most sensitive to HOOH. The genomic streamlining of these evolved lineages during adaptation to the high-light exposed upper euphotic zone thus appears to be coincident with an acquired dependency on the extant HOOH-consuming community. These results underscore the importance of (indirect) biotic interactions in establishing niche boundaries, and highlight the impacts that community-level responses to stress may have in the ecological and evolutionary outcomes for co-existing species.
PMCID: PMC3033426  PMID: 21304826
24.  The apoptosis-inducing activity towards leukemia and lymphoma cells in a cyanobacterial culture collection is not associated with mouse bioassay toxicity 
Cyanobacteria (83 strains and seven natural populations) were screened for content of apoptosis (cell death)-inducing activity towards neoplastic cells of the immune (jurkat acute T-cell lymphoma) and hematopoetic (acute myelogenic leukemia) lineage. Apoptogenic activity was frequent, even in strains cultured for decades, and was unrelated to whether the cyanobacteria had been collected from polar, temperate, or tropic environments. The activity was more abundant in the genera Anabaena and Microcystis compared to Nostoc, Phormidium, Planktothrix, and Pseudanabaena. Whereas the T-cell lymphoma apoptogens were frequent in organic extracts, the cell death-inducing activity towards leukemia cells resided mainly in aqueous extracts. The cyanobacteria were from a culture collection established for public health purposes to detect toxic cyanobacterial blooms, and 54 of them were tested for toxicity by the mouse bioassay. We found no correlation between the apoptogenic activity in the cyanobacterial isolates with their content of microcystin, nor with their ability to elicit a positive standard mouse bioassay. Several strains produced more than one apoptogen, differing in biophysical or biological activity. In fact, two strains contained microcystin in addition to one apoptogen specific for the AML cells, and one apoptogen specific for the T-cell lymphoma. This study shows the potential of cyanobacterial culture collections as libraries for bioactive compounds, since strains kept in cultures for decades produced apoptogens unrelated to the mouse bioassay detectable bloom-associated toxins.
PMCID: PMC3062024  PMID: 20689978
Cyanobacteria; Apoptosis; Cell death; Leukemia; Lymphoma; Mouse bioassay; Toxic
25.  Toward a systems-level understanding of gene regulatory, protein interaction, and metabolic networks in cyanobacteria 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:191.
Cyanobacteria are essential primary producers in marine ecosystems, playing an important role in both carbon and nitrogen cycles. In the last decade, various genome sequencing and metagenomic projects have generated large amounts of genetic data for cyanobacteria. This wealth of data provides researchers with a new basis for the study of molecular adaptation, ecology and evolution of cyanobacteria, as well as for developing biotechnological applications. It also facilitates the use of multiplex techniques, i.e., expression profiling by high-throughput technologies such as microarrays, RNA-seq, and proteomics. However, exploration and analysis of these data is challenging, and often requires advanced computational methods. Also, they need to be integrated into our existing framework of knowledge to use them to draw reliable biological conclusions. Here, systems biology provides important tools. Especially, the construction and analysis of molecular networks has emerged as a powerful systems-level framework, with which to integrate such data, and to better understand biological relevant processes in these organisms. In this review, we provide an overview of the advances and experimental approaches undertaken using multiplex data from genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic studies in cyanobacteria. Furthermore, we summarize currently available web-based tools dedicated to cyanobacteria, i.e., CyanoBase, CyanoEXpress, ProPortal, Cyanorak, CyanoBIKE, and CINPER. Finally, we present a case study for the freshwater model cyanobacteria, Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, to show the power of meta-analysis, and the potential to extrapolate acquired knowledge to the ecologically important marine cyanobacteria genus, Prochlorococcus.
PMCID: PMC4079066  PMID: 25071821
meta-analysis; cyanobacteria; systems biology; networks; metabolic pathways

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