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1.  A Gene Island with Two Possible Configurations Is Involved in Chromatic Acclimation in Marine Synechococcus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84459.
Synechococcus, the second most abundant oxygenic phototroph in the marine environment, harbors the largest pigment diversity known within a single genus of cyanobacteria, allowing it to exploit a wide range of light niches. Some strains are capable of Type IV chromatic acclimation (CA4), a process by which cells can match the phycobilin content of their phycobilisomes to the ambient light quality. Here, we performed extensive genomic comparisons to explore the diversity of this process within the marine Synechococcus radiation. A specific gene island was identified in all CA4-performing strains, containing two genes (fciA/b) coding for possible transcriptional regulators and one gene coding for a phycobilin lyase. However, two distinct configurations of this cluster were observed, depending on the lineage. CA4-A islands contain the mpeZ gene, encoding a recently characterized phycoerythrobilin lyase-isomerase, and a third, small, possible regulator called fciC. In CA4-B islands, the lyase gene encodes an uncharacterized relative of MpeZ, called MpeW. While mpeZ is expressed more in blue light than green light, this is the reverse for mpeW, although only small phenotypic differences were found among chromatic acclimaters possessing either CA4 island type. This study provides novel insights into understanding both diversity and evolution of the CA4 process.
PMCID: PMC3877281  PMID: 24391958
2.  CyanoLyase: a database of phycobilin lyase sequences, motifs and functions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D396-D401.
CyanoLyase ( is a manually curated sequence and motif database of phycobilin lyases and related proteins. These enzymes catalyze the covalent ligation of chromophores (phycobilins) to specific binding sites of phycobiliproteins (PBPs). The latter constitute the building bricks of phycobilisomes, the major light-harvesting systems of cyanobacteria and red algae. Phycobilin lyases sequences are poorly annotated in public databases. Sequences included in CyanoLyase were retrieved from all available genomes of these organisms and a few others by similarity searches using biochemically characterized enzyme sequences and then classified into 3 clans and 32 families. Amino acid motifs were computed for each family using Protomata learner. CyanoLyase also includes BLAST and a novel pattern matching tool (Protomatch) that allow users to rapidly retrieve and annotate lyases from any new genome. In addition, it provides phylogenetic analyses of all phycobilin lyases families, describes their function, their presence/absence in all genomes of the database (phyletic profiles) and predicts the chromophorylation of PBPs in each strain. The site also includes a thorough bibliography about phycobilin lyases and genomes included in the database. This resource should be useful to scientists and companies interested in natural or artificial PBPs, which have a number of biotechnological applications, notably as fluorescent markers.
PMCID: PMC3531064  PMID: 23175607
3.  Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus have Evolved Different Adaptive Mechanisms to Cope with Light and UV Stress 
Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, which numerically dominate vast oceanic areas, are the two most abundant oxygenic phototrophs on Earth. Although they require solar energy for photosynthesis, excess light and associated high UV radiations can induce high levels of oxidative stress that may have deleterious effects on their growth and productivity. Here, we compared the photophysiologies of the model strains Prochlorococcus marinus PCC 9511 and Synechococcus sp. WH7803 grown under a bell-shaped light/dark cycle of high visible light supplemented or not with UV. Prochlorococcus exhibited a higher sensitivity to photoinactivation than Synechococcus under both conditions, as shown by a larger drop of photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield at noon and different diel patterns of the D1 protein pool. In the presence of UV, the PSII repair rate was significantly depressed at noon in Prochlorococcus compared to Synechococcus. Additionally, Prochlorococcus was more sensitive than Synechococcus to oxidative stress, as shown by the different degrees of PSII photoinactivation after addition of hydrogen peroxide. A transcriptional analysis also revealed dramatic discrepancies between the two organisms in the diel expression patterns of several genes involved notably in the biosynthesis and/or repair of photosystems, light-harvesting complexes, CO2 fixation as well as protection mechanisms against light, UV, and oxidative stress, which likely translate profound differences in their light-controlled regulation. Altogether our results suggest that while Synechococcus has developed efficient ways to cope with light and UV stress, Prochlorococcus cells seemingly survive stressful hours of the day by launching a minimal set of protection mechanisms and by temporarily bringing down several key metabolic processes. This study provides unprecedented insights into understanding the distinct depth distributions and dynamics of these two picocyanobacteria in the field.
PMCID: PMC3441193  PMID: 23024637
marine cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; Prochlorococcus; light/dark cycle; light stress; UV radiations; oxidative stress; photophysiology
4.  Light Variability Illuminates Niche-Partitioning among Marine Picocyanobacteria 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(12):e1341.
Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus picocyanobacteria are dominant contributors to marine primary production over large areas of the ocean. Phytoplankton cells are entrained in the water column and are thus often exposed to rapid changes in irradiance within the upper mixed layer of the ocean. An upward fluctuation in irradiance can result in photosystem II photoinactivation exceeding counteracting repair rates through protein turnover, thereby leading to net photoinhibition of primary productivity, and potentially cell death. Here we show that the effective cross-section for photosystem II photoinactivation is conserved across the picocyanobacteria, but that their photosystem II repair capacity and protein-specific photosystem II light capture are negatively correlated and vary widely across the strains. The differences in repair rate correspond to the light and nutrient conditions that characterize the site of origin of the Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus isolates, and determine the upward fluctuation in irradiance they can tolerate, indicating that photoinhibition due to transient high-light exposure influences their distribution in the ocean.
PMCID: PMC2129112  PMID: 18092006
5.  Diversity and evolution of phycobilisomes in marine Synechococcus spp.: a comparative genomics study 
Genome Biology  2007;8(12):R259.
By comparing Synechococcus genomes, candidate genes required for the production of phycobiliproteins, which are part of the light-harvesting antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, were identified. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the phycobilisome core evolved together with the core genome, whereas rods evolved independently.
Marine Synechococcus owe their specific vivid color (ranging from blue-green to orange) to their large extrinsic antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, comprising a central allophycocyanin core and rods of variable phycobiliprotein composition. Three major pigment types can be defined depending on the major phycobiliprotein found in the rods (phycocyanin, phycoerythrin I or phycoerythrin II). Among strains containing both phycoerythrins I and II, four subtypes can be distinguished based on the ratio of the two chromophores bound to these phycobiliproteins. Genomes of eleven marine Synechococcus strains recently became available with one to four strains per pigment type or subtype, allowing an unprecedented comparative genomics study of genes involved in phycobilisome metabolism.
By carefully comparing the Synechococcus genomes, we have retrieved candidate genes potentially required for the synthesis of phycobiliproteins in each pigment type. This includes linker polypeptides, phycobilin lyases and a number of novel genes of uncharacterized function. Interestingly, strains belonging to a given pigment type have similar phycobilisome gene complements and organization, independent of the core genome phylogeny (as assessed using concatenated ribosomal proteins). While phylogenetic trees based on concatenated allophycocyanin protein sequences are congruent with the latter, those based on phycocyanin and phycoerythrin notably differ and match the Synechococcus pigment types.
We conclude that the phycobilisome core has likely evolved together with the core genome, while rods must have evolved independently, possibly by lateral transfer of phycobilisome rod genes or gene clusters between Synechococcus strains, either via viruses or by natural transformation, allowing rapid adaptation to a variety of light niches.
PMCID: PMC2246261  PMID: 18062815
6.  Biochemical Bases of Type IV Chromatic Adaptation in Marine Synechococcus spp. 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(9):3345-3356.
Chromatic adaptation (CA) in cyanobacteria has provided a model system for the study of the environmental control of photophysiology for several decades. All forms of CA that have been examined so far (types II and III) involve changes in the relative contents of phycoerythrin (PE) and/or phycocyanin when cells are shifted from red to green light and vice versa. However, the chromophore compositions of these polypeptides are not altered. Some marine Synechococcus species strains, which possess two PE forms (PEI and PEII), carry out another type of CA (type IV), occurring during shifts from blue to green or white light. Two chromatically adapting strains of marine Synechococcus recently isolated from the Gulf of Mexico were utilized to elucidate the mechanism of type IV CA. During this process, no change in the relative contents of PEI and PEII was observed. Instead, the ratio of the two chromophores bound to PEII, phycourobilin and phycoerythrobilin, is high under blue light and low under white light. Mass spectroscopy analyses of isolated PEII α- and β-subunits show that there is a single PEII protein type under all light climates. The CA process seems to specifically affect the chromophorylation of the PEII (and possibly PEI) α chain. We propose a likely process for type IV CA, which involves the enzymatic activity of one or several phycobilin lyases and/or lyase-isomerases differentially controlled by the ambient light quality. Phylogenetic analyses based on the 16S rRNA gene confirm that type IV CA is not limited to a single clade of marine Synechococcus.
PMCID: PMC1447437  PMID: 16621829
7.  Two Novel Phycoerythrin-Associated Linker Proteins in the Marine Cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. Strain WH8102 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(5):1685-1694.
The recent availability of the whole genome of Synechococcus sp. strain WH8102 allows us to have a global view of the complex structure of the phycobilisomes of this marine picocyanobacterium. Genomic analyses revealed several new characteristics of these phycobilisomes, consisting of an allophycocyanin core and rods made of one type of phycocyanin and two types of phycoerythrins (I and II). Although the allophycocyanin appears to be similar to that found commonly in freshwater cyanobacteria, the phycocyanin is simpler since it possesses only one complete set of α and β subunits and two rod-core linkers (CpcG1 and CpcG2). It is therefore probably made of a single hexameric disk per rod. In contrast, we have found two novel putative phycoerythrin-associated linker polypeptides that appear to be specific for marine Synechococcus spp. The first one (SYNW2000) is unusually long (548 residues) and apparently results from the fusion of a paralog of MpeC, a phycoerythrin II linker, and of CpeD, a phycoerythrin-I linker. The second one (SYNW1989) has a more classical size (300 residues) and is also an MpeC paralog. A biochemical analysis revealed that, like MpeC, these two novel linkers were both chromophorylated with phycourobilin. Our data suggest that they are both associated (partly or totally) with phycoerythrin II, and we propose to name SYNW2000 and SYNW1989 MpeD and MpeE, respectively. We further show that acclimation of phycobilisomes to high light leads to a dramatic reduction of MpeC, whereas the two novel linkers are not significantly affected. Models for the organization of the rods are proposed.
PMCID: PMC1064003  PMID: 15716439

Results 1-7 (7)