Main content area

Cluster of Genes That Encode Positive and Negative Elements Influencing Filament Length in a Heterocyst-Forming Cyanobacterium

Merino-Puerto, Victoria, Herrero, Antonia, Flores, Enrique
Journal of bacteriology 2013 v.195 no.17 pp. 3957-3966
Anabaena, Cyanobacterium (genus), DNA, RNA, bacteriology, fluorescent proteins, models, nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, operon, photosynthesis, transcription (genetics), transcription factors, vegetative cells
The filamentous, heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria perform oxygenic photosynthesis in vegetative cells and nitrogen fixation in heterocysts, and their filaments can be hundreds of cells long. In the model heterocyst-forming cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, the genes in the fraC-fraD-fraE operon are required for filament integrity mainly under conditions of nitrogen deprivation. The fraC operon transcript partially overlaps gene all2395, which lies in the opposite DNA strand and ends 1 bp beyond fraE. Gene all2395 produces transcripts of 1.35 kb (major transcript) and 2.2 kb (minor transcript) that overlap fraE and whose expression is dependent on the N-control transcription factor NtcA. Insertion of a gene cassette containing transcriptional terminators between fraE and all2395 prevented production of the antisense RNAs and resulted in an increased length of the cyanobacterial filaments. Deletion of all2395 resulted in a larger increase of filament length and in impaired growth, mainly under N2-fixing conditions and specifically on solid medium. We denote all2395 the fraF gene, which encodes a protein restricting filament length. A FraF-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion protein accumulated significantly in heterocysts. Similar to some heterocyst differentiation-related proteins such as HglK, HetL, and PatL, FraF is a pentapeptide repeat protein. We conclude that the fraC-fraD-fraE←fraF gene cluster (where the arrow indicates a change in orientation), in which cis antisense RNAs are produced, regulates morphology by encoding proteins that influence positively (FraC, FraD, FraE) or negatively (FraF) the length of the filament mainly under conditions of nitrogen deprivation. This gene cluster is often conserved in heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria.