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A Comparative Genomics Approach to Understanding the Biosynthesis of the Sunscreen Scytonemin in Cyanobacteria

Description

Background: The extracellular sunscreen scytonemin is the most common and widespread indole-alkaloid among cyanobacteria. Previous research using the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 revealed a unique 18-gene cluster (NpR1276 to NpR1259 in the N. punctiforme genome) involved in the biosynthesis of

Background: The extracellular sunscreen scytonemin is the most common and widespread indole-alkaloid among cyanobacteria. Previous research using the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 revealed a unique 18-gene cluster (NpR1276 to NpR1259 in the N. punctiforme genome) involved in the biosynthesis of scytonemin. We provide further genomic characterization of these genes in N. punctiforme and extend it to homologous regions in other cyanobacteria.

Results: Six putative genes in the scytonemin gene cluster (NpR1276 to NpR1271 in the N. punctiforme genome), with no previously known protein function and annotated in this study as scyA to scyF, are likely involved in the assembly of scytonemin from central metabolites, based on genetic, biochemical, and sequence similarity evidence. Also in this cluster are redundant copies of genes encoding for aromatic amino acid biosynthetic enzymes. These can theoretically lead to tryptophan and the tyrosine precursor, p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate, (expected biosynthetic precursors of scytonemin) from end products of the shikimic acid pathway. Redundant copies of the genes coding for the key regulatory and rate-limiting enzymes of the shikimic acid pathway are found there as well. We identified four other cyanobacterial strains containing orthologues of all of these genes, three of them by database searches (Lyngbya PCC 8106, Anabaena PCC 7120, and Nodularia CCY 9414) and one by targeted sequencing (Chlorogloeopsis sp. strain Cgs-089; CCMEE 5094). Genomic comparisons revealed that most scytonemin-related genes were highly conserved among strains and that two additional conserved clusters, NpF5232 to NpF5236 and a putative two-component regulatory system (NpF1278 and NpF1277), are likely involved in scytonemin biosynthesis and regulation, respectively, on the basis of conservation and location. Since many of the protein product sequences for the newly described genes, including ScyD, ScyE, and ScyF, have export signal domains, while others have putative transmembrane domains, it can be inferred that scytonemin biosynthesis is compartmentalized within the cell. Basic structural monomer synthesis and initial condensation are most likely cytoplasmic, while later reactions are predicted to be periplasmic.

Conclusion: We show that scytonemin biosynthetic genes are highly conserved among evolutionarily diverse strains, likely include more genes than previously determined, and are predicted to involve compartmentalization of the biosynthetic pathway in the cell, an unusual trait for prokaryotes.

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Date Created
2009-07-24

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Powerful Fermentative Hydrogen Evolution of Photosynthate in the Cyanobacteriuni Lyngbya Aestuarii BL J Mediated by a Bidirectional Hydrogenase

Description

Cyanobacteria are considered good models for biohydrogen production because they are relatively simple organisms with a demonstrable ability to generate H2 under certain physiological conditions. However, most produce only little H2, revert readily to H2 consumption, and suffer from hydrogenase

Cyanobacteria are considered good models for biohydrogen production because they are relatively simple organisms with a demonstrable ability to generate H2 under certain physiological conditions. However, most produce only little H2, revert readily to H2 consumption, and suffer from hydrogenase sensitivity to O2. Strains of the cyanobacteria Lyngbya aestuarii and Microcoleus chthonoplastes obtained from marine intertidal cyanobacterial mats were recently found to display much better H2 production potential. Because of their ecological origin in environments that become quickly anoxic in the dark, we hypothesized that this differential ability may have evolved to serve a role in the fermentation of the photosynthate. Here we show that, when forced to ferment internal substrate, these cyanobacteria display desirable characteristics of physiological H2 production. Among them, the strain L. aestuarii BL J had the fastest specific rates and attained the highest H2 concentrations during fermentation of photosynthate, which proceeded via a mixed acid fermentation pathway to yield acetate, ethanol, lactate, H2, CO2, and pyruvate. Contrary to expectations, the H2 yield per mole of glucose was only average compared to that of other cyanobacteria. Thermodynamic analyses point to the use of electron donors more electronegative than NAD(P)H in Lyngbya hydrogenases as the basis for its strong H2 production ability. In any event, the high specific rates and H2 concentrations coupled with the lack of reversibility of the enzyme, at the expense of internal, photosynthetically generated reductants, makes L. aestuarii BL J and/or its enzymes, a potentially feasible platform for large-scale H2 production.

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Date Created
2014-12-10

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Exometabolite Niche Partitioning Among Sympatric Soil Bacteria

Description

Soils are arguably the most microbially diverse ecosystems. Physicochemical properties have been associated with the maintenance of this diversity. Yet, the role of microbial substrate specialization is largely unexplored since substrate utilization studies have focused on simple substrates, not the

Soils are arguably the most microbially diverse ecosystems. Physicochemical properties have been associated with the maintenance of this diversity. Yet, the role of microbial substrate specialization is largely unexplored since substrate utilization studies have focused on simple substrates, not the complex mixtures representative of the soil environment. Here we examine the exometabolite composition of desert biological soil crusts (biocrusts) and the substrate preferences of seven biocrust isolates. The biocrust's main primary producer releases a diverse array of metabolites, and isolates of physically associated taxa use unique subsets of the complex metabolite pool. Individual isolates use only 13−26% of available metabolites, with only 2 out of 470 used by all and 40% not used by any. An extension of this approach to a mesophilic soil environment also reveals high levels of microbial substrate specialization. These results suggest that exometabolite niche partitioning may be an important factor in the maintenance of microbial diversity.

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Date Created
2015-09-22

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Draft Genome Assembly of a Filamentous Euendolithic (True Boring) Cyanobacterium, Mastigocoleus Testarum Strain BC008

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Mastigocoleus testarum strain BC008 is a model organism used to study marine photoautotrophic carbonate dissolution. It is a multicellular, filamentous, diazotrophic, euendolithic cyanobacterium ubiquitously found in marine benthic environments. We present an accurate draft genome assembly of 172 contigs spanning

Mastigocoleus testarum strain BC008 is a model organism used to study marine photoautotrophic carbonate dissolution. It is a multicellular, filamentous, diazotrophic, euendolithic cyanobacterium ubiquitously found in marine benthic environments. We present an accurate draft genome assembly of 172 contigs spanning 12,700,239 bp with 9,131 annotated genes with an average G+C% of 37.3.

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Date Created
2016-01-28

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Bacteria Increase Arid-Land Soil Surface Temperature Through the Production of Sunscreens

Description

Soil surface temperature, an important driver of terrestrial biogeochemical processes, depends strongly on soil albedo, which can be significantly modified by factors such as plant cover. In sparsely vegetated lands, the soil surface can be colonized by photosynthetic microbes that

Soil surface temperature, an important driver of terrestrial biogeochemical processes, depends strongly on soil albedo, which can be significantly modified by factors such as plant cover. In sparsely vegetated lands, the soil surface can be colonized by photosynthetic microbes that build biocrust communities. Here we use concurrent physical, biochemical and microbiological analyses to show that mature biocrusts can increase surface soil temperature by as much as 10 °C through the accumulation of large quantities of a secondary metabolite, the microbial sunscreen scytonemin, produced by a group of late-successional cyanobacteria. Scytonemin accumulation decreases soil albedo significantly. Such localized warming has apparent and immediate consequences for the soil microbiome, inducing the replacement of thermosensitive bacterial species with more thermotolerant forms. These results reveal that not only vegetation but also microorganisms are a factor in modifying terrestrial albedo, potentially impacting biosphere feedbacks on past and future climate, and call for a direct assessment of such effects at larger scales.

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Date Created
2016-01-20

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Mutational Studies of Putative Biosynthetic Genes for the Cyanobacterial Sunscreen Scytonemin in Nostoc Punctiforme ATCC 29133

Description

The heterocyclic indole-alkaloid scytonemin is a sunscreen found exclusively among cyanobacteria. An 18-gene cluster is responsible for scytonemin production in Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133. The upstream genes scyABCDEF in the cluster are proposed to be responsible for scytonemin biosynthesis from

The heterocyclic indole-alkaloid scytonemin is a sunscreen found exclusively among cyanobacteria. An 18-gene cluster is responsible for scytonemin production in Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133. The upstream genes scyABCDEF in the cluster are proposed to be responsible for scytonemin biosynthesis from aromatic amino acid substrates. In vitro studies of ScyA, ScyB, and ScyC proved that these enzymes indeed catalyze initial pathway reactions. Here we characterize the role of ScyD, ScyE, and ScyF, which were logically predicted to be responsible for late biosynthetic steps, in the biological context of N. punctiforme. In-frame deletion mutants of each were constructed (ΔscyD, ΔscyE, and ΔscyF) and their phenotypes studied. Expectedly, ΔscyE presents a scytoneminless phenotype, but no accumulation of the predicted intermediaries. Surprisingly, ΔscyD retains scytonemin production, implying that it is not required for biosynthesis. Indeed, scyD presents an interesting evolutionary paradox: it likely originated in a duplication event from scyE, and unlike other genes in the operon, it has not been subjected to purifying selection. This would suggest that it is a pseudogene, and yet scyD is highly conserved in the scytonemin operon of cyanobacteria. ΔscyF also retains scytonemin production, albeit exhibiting a reduction of the production yield compared with the wild-type. This indicates that ScyF is not essential but may play an adjuvant role for scytonemin synthesis. Altogether, our findings suggest that these downstream genes are not responsible, as expected, for the late steps of scytonemin synthesis and we must look for those functions elsewhere. These findings are particularly important for biotechnological production of this sunscreen through heterologous expression of its genes in more tractable organisms.

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Date Created
2016-05-18

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Diversity and Mineral Substrate Preference in Endolithic Microbial Communities From Marine Intertidal Outcrops (Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico)

Description

Endolithic microbial communities are prominent features of intertidal marine habitats, where they colonize a variety of substrates, contributing to their erosion. Almost 2 centuries worth of naturalistic studies focused on a few true-boring (euendolithic) phototrophs, but substrate preference has received

Endolithic microbial communities are prominent features of intertidal marine habitats, where they colonize a variety of substrates, contributing to their erosion. Almost 2 centuries worth of naturalistic studies focused on a few true-boring (euendolithic) phototrophs, but substrate preference has received little attention. The Isla de Mona (Puerto Rico) intertidal zone offers a unique setting to investigate substrate specificity of endolithic communities since various phosphate rock, limestone and dolostone outcrops occur there. High-throughput 16S rDNA genetic sampling, enhanced by targeted cultivation, revealed that, while euendolithic cyanobacteria were dominant operational taxonomic units (OTUs), the communities were invariably of high diversity, well beyond that reported in traditional studies and implying an unexpected metabolic complexity potentially contributed by secondary colonizers. While the overall community composition did not show differences traceable to the nature of the mineral substrate, we detected specialization among particular euendolithic cyanobacterial clades towards the type of substrate they excavate but only at the OTU phylogenetic level, implying that close relatives have specialized recurrently into particular substrates. The cationic mineral component was determinant in this preference, suggesting the existence in nature of alternatives to the boring mechanism described in culture that is based exclusively on transcellular calcium transport.

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Date Created
2017-01-23

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Carbon Fixation From Mineral Carbonates

Description

Photoautotrophs assimilate oxidized carbon obtained from one of two sources: dissolved or atmospheric. Despite its size, the pool of lithospheric carbonate is not known to be a direct source for autotrophy. Yet, the mechanism that euendolithic cyanobacteria use to excavate

Photoautotrophs assimilate oxidized carbon obtained from one of two sources: dissolved or atmospheric. Despite its size, the pool of lithospheric carbonate is not known to be a direct source for autotrophy. Yet, the mechanism that euendolithic cyanobacteria use to excavate solid carbonates suggests that minerals could directly supply CO[subscript 2] for autotrophy. Here, we use stable isotopes and NanoSIMS to show that the cyanobacterium Mastigocoleus testarum derives most of its carbon from the mineral it excavates, growing preferentially as an endolith when lacking dissolved CO[subscript 2]. Furthermore, natural endolithic communities from intertidal marine carbonate outcrops present carbon isotopic signatures consistent with mineral-sourced autotrophy. These data demonstrate a direct geomicrobial link between mineral carbonate pools and reduced organic carbon, which, given the geographical extent of carbonate outcrops, is likely of global relevance. The ancient fossil record of euendolithic cyanobacteria suggests that biological fixation of solid carbonate could have been relevant since the mid-Proterozoic.

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Date Created
2017-10-18

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Differential Responses of Dinitrogen Fixation, Diazotrophic Cyanobacteria, and Ammonia Oxidation Reveal a Potential Warming-Induced Imbalance of the N-Cycle in Biological Soil Crusts

Description

N2 fixation and ammonia oxidation (AO) are the two most important processes in the nitrogen (N) cycle of biological soil crusts (BSCs). We studied the short-term response of acetylene reduction assay (ARA) rates, an indicator of potential N2 fixation, and

N2 fixation and ammonia oxidation (AO) are the two most important processes in the nitrogen (N) cycle of biological soil crusts (BSCs). We studied the short-term response of acetylene reduction assay (ARA) rates, an indicator of potential N2 fixation, and AO rates to temperature (T, -5°C to 35°C) in BSC of different successional stages along the BSC ecological succession and geographic origin (hot Chihuahuan and cooler Great Basin deserts). ARA in all BSCs increased with T until saturation occurred between 15 and 20°C, and declined at 30–35°C. Culture studies using cyanobacteria isolated from these crusts indicated that the saturating effect was traceable to their inability to grow well diazotrophically within the high temperature range. Below saturation, temperature response was exponential, with Q10 significantly different in the two areas (~ 5 for Great Basin BSCs; 2–3 for Chihuahuan BSCs), but similar between the two successional stages. However, in contrast to ARA, AO showed a steady increase to 30–35°C in Great Basin, and Chihuhuan BSCs showed no inhibition at any tested temperature. The T response of AO also differed significantly between Great Basin (Q10 of 4.5–4.8) and Chihuahuan (Q10 of 2.4–2.6) BSCs, but not between successional stages. Response of ARA rates to T did not differ from that of AO in either desert. Thus, while both processes scaled to T in unison until 20°C, they separated to an increasing degree at higher temperature. As future warming is likely to occur in the regions where BSCs are often the dominant living cover, this predicted decoupling is expected to result in higher proportion of nitrates in soil relative to ammonium. As nitrate is more easily lost as leachate or to be reduced to gaseous forms, this could mean a depletion of soil N over large landscapes globally.

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Date Created
2016-10-24

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Improving cyanobacterial hydrogen production through bioprospecting of natural microbial communities

Description

Some cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen (H2) under certain physiological conditions and are considered potential agents for biohydrogen production. However, they also present low amounts of H2 production, a reaction reversal towards H2 consumption, and O2 sensitivity. Most attempts to improve

Some cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen (H2) under certain physiological conditions and are considered potential agents for biohydrogen production. However, they also present low amounts of H2 production, a reaction reversal towards H2 consumption, and O2 sensitivity. Most attempts to improve H2 production have involved genetic or metabolic engineering approaches. I used a bio-prospecting approach instead to find novel strains that are naturally more apt for biohydrogen production. A set of 36, phylogenetically diverse strains isolated from terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments were probed for their potential to produce H2 from excess reductant. Two distinct patterns in H2 production were detected. Strains displaying Pattern 1, as previously known from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, produced H2 only temporarily, reverting to H2 consumption within a short time and after reaching only moderately high H2 concentrations. By contrast, Pattern 2 cyanobacteria, in the genera Lyngbya and Microcoleus, displayed high production rates, did not reverse the direction of the reaction and reached much higher steady-state H2 concentrations. L. aestuarii BL J, an isolate from marine intertidal mats, had the fastest production rates and reached the highest steady-state concentrations, 15-fold higher than that observed in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Because all Pattern 2 strains originated in intertidal microbial mats that become anoxic in dark, it was hypothesized that their strong hydrogenogenic capacity may have evolved to aid in fermentation of the photosynthate. When forced to ferment, these cyanobacteria display similarly desirable characteristics of physiological H2 production. Again, L. aestuarii BL J had the fastest specific rates and attained the highest H2 concentrations during fermentation, which proceeded via a mixed-acid pathway to yield acetate, ethanol, lactate, H2, CO2 and pyruvate. The genome of L. aestuarii BL J was sequenced and bioinformatically compared to other cyanobacterial genomes to ascertain any potential genetic or structural basis for powerful H2 production. The association hcp exclusively in Pattern 2 strains suggests its possible role in increased H2 production. This study demonstrates the value of bioprospecting approaches to biotechnology, pointing to the strain L. aestuarii BL J as a source of useful genetic information or as a potential platform for biohydrogen production.

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2013