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Is RAF1 protein from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 really needed in the cyanobacterial Rubisco assembly process?

Kolesinski, Piotr, Rydzy, Malgorzata, Szczepaniak, Andrzej
Photosynthesis research 2017 v.132 no.2 pp. 135-148
Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, biocatalysts, biomass, biosynthesis, carbon dioxide, chaperonins, environmental factors, gene targeting, homeostasis, mutants, photosynthesis, phycocyanin, polypeptides, proteolysis, ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase, starvation, sulfur
Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) is responsible for carbon dioxide conversion during photosynthesis and, therefore, is the most important protein in biomass generation. Modifications of this biocatalyst toward improvements in its properties are hindered by the complicated and not yet fully understood assembly process required for the formation of active holoenzymes. An entire set of auxiliary factors, including chaperonin GroEL/GroES and assembly chaperones RbcX or Rubisco accumulation factor 1 (RAF1), is involved in the folding and subsequent assembly of Rubisco subunits. Recently, it has been shown that cyanobacterial RAF1 acts during the formation of the large Rubisco subunit (RbcL) dimer. However, both its physiological function and its necessity in the prokaryotic Rubisco formation process remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that the Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 strain with raf1 gene disruption shows the same growth rate as wild-type cells under standard conditions. Moreover, the Rubisco biosynthesis process seems to be unperturbed in mutant cells despite the absence of RbcL-RAF1 complexes. However, in the tested environmental conditions, sulfur starvation triggers the degradation of RbcL and subsequent proteolysis of other polypeptides in wild-type but not Δraf1 strains. Pull-down experiments also indicate that, apart from Rubisco, RAF1 co-purifies with phycocyanins. We postulate that RAF1 is not an obligatory factor in cyanobacterial Rubisco assembly, but rather participates in environmentally regulated Rubisco homeostasis.