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.
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.
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.
Peroxiredoxin; Structure; Phylogeny and evolution; Comparative genomics; Cyanobacteria
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.
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.
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.
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.
Acaryochloris; chlorophyll d; cyanobacteria; dinitrogen fixation; microbial diversity; nitrogenase
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.
Cyanobacteria; Apoptosis; Cell death; Leukemia; Lymphoma; Mouse bioassay; Toxic
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.
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.
The well-lit surface waters of oligotrophic gyres significantly contribute to global primary production. Marine cyanobacteria of the genus Prochlorococcus are a major fraction of photosynthetic organisms within these areas. Labile phosphate is considered a limiting nutrient in some oligotrophic regions such as the Caribbean Sea, and as such it is crucial to understand the physiological response of primary producers such as Prochlorococcus to fluctuations in the availability of this critical nutrient.
Prochlorococcus strains representing both high light (HL) (MIT9312) and low light (LL) (NATL2A and SS120) ecotypes were grown identically in phosphate depleted media (10 μM Pi). The three strains displayed marked differences in cellular protein expression, as determined by high throughput large scale quantitative proteomic analysis. The only strain to demonstrate a significantly different growth rate under reduced phosphate conditions was MIT9312. Additionally, there was a significant increase in phosphate-related proteins such as PhoE (> 15 fold increase) and a depression of the Rubisco protein RbcL abundance in this strain, whereas there appeared to be no significant change within the LL strain SS120.
This differential response between ecotypes highlights the relative importance of phosphate availability to each strain and from these results we draw the conclusion that the expression of phosphate acquisition mechanisms are activated at strain specific phosphate concentrations.
Prochlorococcus; PstS; PhoA; PhoE; Growth; Phosphate
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.
marine cyanobacteria; horizontal gene transfer; introgression; quartet decomposition; supertree; genome evolution
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.
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.
Phycoerythrin is a major pigmented component of the phycobilisome, a cyanobacterial light-harvesting complex. It contains bilin-type chromophores that absorb and transfer light energy to chlorophyll protein complexes of the photosynthetic membranes. In many cyanobacteria, phycoerythrin expression is regulated by light wavelength in a response known as chromatic adaptation. Green light-grown cells contain higher levels of this biliprotein than do cells grown in red light. The phycoerythrin gene set from the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6701 was cloned and sequenced, and the 5' end of the phycoerythrin mRNA was localized. The amino acid sequences of the phycoerythrin subunits from Synechocystis strain 6701 and Fremyella diplosiphon were 90% identical. As observed in F. diplosiphon, the Synechocystis strain 6701 phycoerythrin transcript accumulated to high levels in green light-grown cells and low levels in red light-grown cells. Similar nucleotide sequences, which might control gene expression, occurred upstream of the transcription initiation sites of the phycoerythrin genes in both organisms. While the phycoerythrin structure and light-regulated transcript accumulation were similar in Synechocystis strain 6701 and F. diplosiphon, the steady-state levels of phycoerythrin subunits during growth in red light were quite different for the two organisms. This observation suggests that control of phycoerythrin levels in Synechocystis strain 6701 is complex and may involve posttranscriptional processes. We also characterized the phycoerythrin genes and mRNA levels in two phycobilisome assembly mutants, UV16-40 and UV16.
A molecular method for detecting the epiphyte community on marine macroalgae was developed by using PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Selective amplification of 16S rRNA gene fragments from either cyanobacteria or algal plastids improved the detection of minor epiphytes. Two phylotypes of Acaryochloris, a chlorophyll d-containing cyanobacterium, were found not only on red macroalgae but also on green and brown macroalgae.
Marine cyanobacteria of the genera Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are the most abundant photosynthetic prokaryotes in oceanic environments, and are key contributors to global CO2 fixation, chlorophyll biomass and primary production. Cyanophages, viruses infecting cyanobacteria, are a major force in the ecology of their hosts. These phages contribute greatly to cyanobacterial mortality, therefore acting as a powerful selective force upon their hosts. Phage reproduction is based on utilization of the host transcription and translation mechanisms; therefore, differences in the G+C genomic content between cyanophages and their hosts could be a limiting factor for the translation of cyanophage genes. On the basis of comprehensive genomic analyses conducted in this study, we suggest that cyanophages of the Myoviridae family, which can infect both Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, overcome this limitation by carrying additional sets of tRNAs in their genomes accommodating AT-rich codons. Whereas the tRNA genes are less needed when infecting their Prochlorococcus hosts, which possess a similar G+C content to the cyanophage, the additional tRNAs may increase the overall translational efficiency of their genes when infecting a Synechococcus host (with high G+C content), therefore potentially enabling the infection of multiple hosts.
codon usage; cross-infectivity; marine cyanophages; Prochlorococcus; Synechococcus; tRNA
Saxitoxins (STXs) are carbamate alkaloid neurotoxins produced by marine “red tide” dinoflagellates and several species of freshwater filamentous cyanobacteria, including Anabaena circinalis, Aphanizomenon spp., Lyngbya wollei, and Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii. A specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) method based on SYBR green chemistry was developed to quantify saxitoxin-producing Anabaena circinalis cyanobacteria, which are major bloom-forming freshwater cyanobacteria. The aim of this study was to infer the potential toxigenicity of samples by determining the copy number of a unique and unusual polyketide synthase (PKS) sequence (sxtA) in the STX biosynthesis gene cluster identified in cyanobacteria. Our qPCR approach was applied to water samples collected from different Australian lakes, dams, and rivers. The STX concentration and cyanobacterial cell density of these blooms were also determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and microscopic cell counting, respectively. STX concentrations correlated positively with STX gene copy numbers, indicating that the latter can be used as a measure of potential toxigenicity in Anabaena circinalis and possibly other cyanobacterial blooms. The qPCR method targeting STX genes can also be employed for both monitoring and ecophysiological studies of toxic Anabaena circinalis blooms and potentially several other STX-producing cyanobacteria.
Unicellular nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria are important components of marine phytoplankton. Although non-nitrogen-fixing marine phytoplankton generally exhibit high gene sequence and genomic diversity, gene sequences of natural populations and isolated strains of Crocosphaera watsonii, one of the two most abundant open ocean unicellular cyanobacteria groups, have been shown to be 98–100% identical. The low sequence diversity in Crocosphaera is a dramatic contrast to sympatric species of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, and raises the question of how genome differences can explain observed phenotypic diversity among Crocosphaera strains. Here we show, through whole genome comparisons of two phenotypically different strains, that there are strain-specific sequences in each genome, and numerous genome rearrangements, despite exceptionally low sequence diversity in shared genomic regions. Some of the strain-specific sequences encode functions that explain observed phenotypic differences, such as exopolysaccharide biosynthesis. The pattern of strain-specific sequences distributed throughout the genomes, along with rearrangements in shared sequences is evidence of significant genetic mobility that may be attributed to the hundreds of transposase genes found in both strains. Furthermore, such genetic mobility appears to be the main mechanism of strain divergence in Crocosphaera which do not accumulate DNA microheterogeneity over the vast majority of their genomes. The strain-specific sequences found in this study provide tools for future physiological studies, as well as genetic markers to help determine the relative abundance of phenotypes in natural populations.
comparative genomics; Crocosphaera; exopolysaccharide biosynthesis; genome conservation; mobile genetic elements; nitrogen fixation
Saxitoxin (STX) and its 57 analogs are a broad group of natural neurotoxic alkaloids, commonly known as the paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs). PSTs are the causative agents of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and are mostly associated with marine dinoflagellates (eukaryotes) and freshwater cyanobacteria (prokaryotes), which form extensive blooms around the world. PST producing dinoflagellates belong to the genera Alexandrium, Gymnodinium and Pyrodinium whilst production has been identified in several cyanobacterial genera including Anabaena, Cylindrospermopsis, Aphanizomenon Planktothrix and Lyngbya. STX and its analogs can be structurally classified into several classes such as non-sulfated, mono-sulfated, di-sulfated, decarbamoylated and the recently discovered hydrophobic analogs—each with varying levels of toxicity. Biotransformation of the PSTs into other PST analogs has been identified within marine invertebrates, humans and bacteria. An improved understanding of PST transformation into less toxic analogs and degradation, both chemically or enzymatically, will be important for the development of methods for the detoxification of contaminated water supplies and of shellfish destined for consumption. Some PSTs also have demonstrated pharmaceutical potential as a long-term anesthetic in the treatment of anal fissures and for chronic tension-type headache. The recent elucidation of the saxitoxin biosynthetic gene cluster in cyanobacteria and the identification of new PST analogs will present opportunities to further explore the pharmaceutical potential of these intriguing alkaloids.
saxitoxin; STX; paralytic shellfish poisoning; PSP; paralytic shellfish toxins; PSTs; neurotoxins; alkaloid analogs
Summary: Marine picocyanobacteria of the genera Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus numerically dominate the picophytoplankton of the world ocean, making a key contribution to global primary production. Prochlorococcus was isolated around 20 years ago and is probably the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth. The genus comprises specific ecotypes which are phylogenetically distinct and differ markedly in their photophysiology, allowing growth over a broad range of light and nutrient conditions within the 45°N to 40°S latitudinal belt that they occupy. Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are closely related, together forming a discrete picophytoplankton clade, but are distinguishable by their possession of dissimilar light-harvesting apparatuses and differences in cell size and elemental composition. Synechococcus strains have a ubiquitous oceanic distribution compared to that of Prochlorococcus strains and are characterized by phylogenetically discrete lineages with a wide range of pigmentation. In this review, we put our current knowledge of marine picocyanobacterial genomics into an environmental context and present previously unpublished genomic information arising from extensive genomic comparisons in order to provide insights into the adaptations of these marine microbes to their environment and how they are reflected at the genomic level.
A simple method for whole-cell hybridization using fluorescently labeled rRNA-targeted peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probes was developed for use in marine cyanobacterial picoplankton. In contrast to established protocols, this method is capable of detecting rRNA in Prochlorococcus, the most abundant unicellular marine cyanobacterium. Because the method avoids the use of alcohol fixation, the chlorophyll content of Prochlorococcus cells is preserved, facilitating the identification of these cells in natural samples. PNA probe-conferred fluorescence was measured flow cytometrically and was always significantly higher than that of the negative control probe, with positive/negative ratio varying between 4 and 10, depending on strain and culture growth conditions. Prochlorococcus cells from open ocean samples were detectable with this method. RNase treatment reduced probe-conferred fluorescence to background levels, demonstrating that this signal was in fact related to the presence of rRNA. In another marine cyanobacterium, Synechococcus, in which both PNA and oligonucleotide probes can be used in whole-cell hybridizations, the magnitude of fluorescence from the former was fivefold higher than that from the latter, although the positive/negative ratio was comparable for both probes. In Synechococcus cells growing at a range of growth rates (and thus having different rRNA concentrations per cell), the PNA- and oligonucleotide-derived signals were highly correlated (r = 0.99). The chemical nature of PNA, the sensitivity of PNA-RNA binding to single-base-pair mismatches, and the preservation of cellular integrity by this method suggest that it may be useful for phylogenetic probing of whole cells in the natural environment.
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.
Microviridins are ribosomally synthesized tricyclic depsipeptides produced by different genera of cyanobacteria. The prevalence of the microviridin gene clusters and the natural diversity of microviridin precursor sequences are currently unknown. Screening of laboratory strains and field samples of the bloom-forming freshwater cyanobacterium Microcystis via PCR revealed global occurrence of the microviridin pathway and an unexpected natural variety. We could detect 15 new variants of the precursor gene mdnA encoding microviridin backbones that differ in up to 4 amino acid positions from known isoforms of the peptide. The survey not only provides insights into the versatility of the biosynthetic enzymes in a closely related group of cyanobacteria, but also facilitates the discovery and characterization of cryptic microviridin variants. This is demonstrated for microviridin L in Microcystis aeruginosa strain NIES843 and heterologously produced variants.
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.