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Induction of the Nitrate Assimilation nirA Operon and Protein-Protein Interactions in the Maturation of Nitrate and Nitrite Reductases in the Cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. Strain PCC 7120

Fréías, José E., Flores, Enrique
Journal of bacteriology 2015 v.197 no.14 pp. 2442-2452
ABC transporters, Anabaena, microorganisms, mutants, mutation, nitrate reductase, nitrates, nitrite reductase, nitrites, nitrogen, open reading frames, operon, protein-protein interactions, structural genes
Nitrate is widely used as a nitrogen source by cyanobacteria, in which the nitrate assimilation structural genes frequently constitute the so-called nirA operon. This operon contains the genes encoding nitrite reductase (nirA), a nitrate/nitrite transporter (frequently an ABC-type transporter; nrtABCD), and nitrate reductase (narB). In the model filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, which can fix N ₂ in specialized cells termed heterocysts, the nirA operon is expressed at high levels only in media containing nitrate or nitrite and lacking ammonium, a preferred nitrogen source. Here we examined the genes downstream of the nirA operon in Anabaena and found that a small open reading frame of unknown function, alr0613 , can be cotranscribed with the operon. The next gene in the genome, alr0614 (narM), showed an expression pattern similar to that of the nirA operon, implying correlated expression of narM and the operon. A mutant of narM with an insertion mutation failed to produce nitrate reductase activity, consistent with the idea that NarM is required for the maturation of NarB. Both narM and narB mutants were impaired in the nitrate-dependent induction of the nirA operon, suggesting that nitrite is an inducer of the operon in Anabaena . It has previously been shown that the nitrite reductase protein NirA requires NirB, a protein likely involved in protein-protein interactions, to attain maximum activity. Bacterial two-hybrid analysis confirmed possible NirA-NirB and NarB-NarM interactions, suggesting that the development of both nitrite reductase and nitrate reductase activities in cyanobacteria involves physical interaction of the corresponding enzymes with their cognate partners, NirB and NarM, respectively. IMPORTANCE Nitrate is an important source of nitrogen for many microorganisms that is utilized through the nitrate assimilation system, which includes nitrate/nitrite membrane transporters and the nitrate and nitrite reductases. Many cyanobacteria assimilate nitrate, but regulation of the nitrate assimilation system varies in different cyanobacterial groups. In the N ₂-fixing, heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria, the nirA operon, which includes the structural genes for the nitrate assimilation system, is expressed in the presence of nitrate or nitrite if ammonium is not available to the cells. Here we studied the genes required for production of an active nitrate reductase, providing information on the nitrate-dependent induction of the operon, and found evidence for possible protein-protein interactions in the maturation of nitrate reductase and nitrite reductase.