Life2015, 5(2), 1218-1238; doi:10.3390/life5021218 (registering DOI) - published 1 April 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Exopolysaccharides (EPSs) are an important class of biopolymers with great ecological importance. In natural environments, they are a common feature of microbial biofilms, where they play key protective and structural roles. As the primary colonizers of constrained environments, such as desert soils and lithic and exposed substrates, cyanobacteria are the first contributors to the synthesis of the EPSs constituting the extracellular polymeric matrix that favors the formation of microbial associations with varying levels of complexity called biofilms. Cyanobacterial colonization represents the first step for the formation of biofilms with different levels of complexity. In all of the possible systems in which cyanobacteria are involved, the synthesis of EPSs contributes a structurally-stable and hydrated microenvironment, as well as chemical/physical protection against biotic and abiotic stress factors. Notwithstanding the important roles of cyanobacterial EPSs, many aspects related to their roles and the relative elicited biotic and abiotic factors have still to be clarified. The aim of this survey is to outline the state-of-the-art of the importance of the cyanobacterial EPS excretion, both for the producing cells and for the microbial associations in which cyanobacteria are a key component.
Life2015, 5(2), 1204-1217; doi:10.3390/life5021204 - published 30 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We simulate pH-dependent growth of cyanobacteria with an ecosystem model for the central Baltic Sea. Four model components—a life cycle model of cyanobacteria, a biogeochemical model, a carbonate chemistry model and a water column model—are coupled via the framework for aquatic biogeochemical models. The coupled model is forced by the output of a regional climate model, based on the A1B emission scenario. With this coupled model, we perform simulations for the period 1968–2098. Our simulation experiments suggest that in the future, cyanobacteria growth is hardly affected by the projected pH decrease. However, in the simulation phase prior to 1980, cyanobacteria growth and N2-fixation are limited by the relatively high pH. The observed absence of cyanobacteria before the 1960s may thus be explained not only by lower eutrophication levels, but also by a higher alkalinity.
Life2015, 5(2), 1172-1203; doi:10.3390/life5021172 - published 30 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Chlorophyll a (Chl) is a light-absorbing tetrapyrrole pigment that is essential for photosynthesis. The molecule is produced from glutamate via a complex biosynthetic pathway comprised of at least 15 enzymatic steps. The first half of the Chl pathway is shared with heme biosynthesis, and the latter half, called the Mg-branch, is specific to Mg-containing Chl a. Bilin pigments, such as phycocyanobilin, are additionally produced from heme, so these light-harvesting pigments also share many common biosynthetic steps with Chl biosynthesis. Some of these common steps in the biosynthetic pathways of heme, Chl and bilins require molecular oxygen for catalysis, such as oxygen-dependent coproporphyrinogen III oxidase. Cyanobacteria thrive in diverse environments in terms of oxygen levels. To cope with Chl deficiency caused by low-oxygen conditions, cyanobacteria have developed elaborate mechanisms to maintain Chl production, even under microoxic environments. The use of enzymes specialized for low-oxygen conditions, such as oxygen-independent coproporphyrinogen III oxidase, constitutes part of a mechanism adapted to low-oxygen conditions. Another mechanism adaptive to hypoxic conditions is mediated by the transcriptional regulator ChlR that senses low oxygen and subsequently activates the transcription of genes encoding enzymes that work under low-oxygen tension. In diazotrophic cyanobacteria, this multilayered regulation also contributes in Chl biosynthesis by supporting energy production for nitrogen fixation that also requires low-oxygen conditions. We will also discuss the evolutionary implications of cyanobacterial tetrapyrrole biosynthesis and regulation, because low oxygen-type enzymes also appear to be evolutionarily older than oxygen-dependent enzymes.
Life2015, 5(2), 1141-1171; doi:10.3390/life5021141 - published 27 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The marine Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are the numerically dominant cyanobacteria in the ocean and important in global carbon fixation. They have evolved a CO2-concentrating-mechanism, of which the central component is the carboxysome, a self-assembling proteinaceous organelle. Two types of carboxysome, α and β, encapsulating form IA and form IB d-ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, respectively, differ in gene organization and associated proteins. In contrast to the β-carboxysome, the assembly process of the α-carboxysome is enigmatic. Moreover, an absolutely conserved α-carboxysome protein, CsoS2, is of unknown function and has proven recalcitrant to crystallization. Here, we present studies on the CsoS2 protein in three model organisms and show that CsoS2 is vital for α-carboxysome biogenesis. The primary structure of CsoS2 appears tripartite, composed of an N-terminal, middle (M)-, and C-terminal region. Repetitive motifs can be identified in the N- and M-regions. Multiple lines of evidence suggest CsoS2 is highly flexible, possibly an intrinsically disordered protein. Based on our results from bioinformatic, biophysical, genetic and biochemical approaches, including peptide array scanning for protein-protein interactions, we propose a model for CsoS2 function and its spatial location in the α-carboxysome. Analogies between the pathway for β-carboxysome biogenesis and our model for α-carboxysome assembly are discussed.
Life2015, 5(2), 1127-1140; doi:10.3390/life5021127 - published 27 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Cyanobacteria dynamically relay environmental inputs to intracellular adaptations through a coordinated adjustment of photosynthetic efficiency and carbon processing rates. The output of such adaptations is reflected through changes in transcriptional patterns and metabolic flux distributions that ultimately define growth strategy. To address interrelationships between metabolism and regulation, we performed integrative analyses of metabolic and gene co-expression networks in a model cyanobacterium, Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. Centrality analyses using the gene co-expression network identified a set of key genes, which were defined here as “topologically important.” Parallel in silico gene knock-out simulations, using the genome-scale metabolic network, classified what we termed as “functionally important” genes, deletion of which affected growth or metabolism. A strong positive correlation was observed between topologically and functionally important genes. Functionally important genes exhibited variable levels of topological centrality; however, the majority of topologically central genes were found to be functionally essential for growth. Subsequent functional enrichment analysis revealed that both functionally and topologically important genes in Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 are predominantly associated with translation and energy metabolism, two cellular processes critical for growth. This research demonstrates how synergistic network-level analyses can be used for reconciliation of metabolic and gene expression data to uncover fundamental biological principles.
Life2015, 5(2), 1111-1126; doi:10.3390/life5021111 - published 26 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Cyanobacterial lipid droplets (LDs) are packed with hydrophobic energy-dense compounds and have great potential for biotechnological expression and the compartmentalization of high value compounds. Nostoc punctiforme normally accumulates LDs containing neutral lipids, and small amounts of heptadecane, during the stationary phase of growth. In this study, we further enhanced heptadecane production in N. punctiforme by introducing extrachromosomal copies of aar/adc genes, and report the discovery of a putative novel lipase encoded by Npun_F5141, which further enhanced alkane production. Extra copies of all three genes in high light conditions resulted in a 16-fold higher accumulation of heptadecane compared to the wild type strain in the exponential phase. LD accumulation during exponential phase also increased massively to accommodate the heptadecane production. A large number of small, less fluorescent LDs were observed at the cell periphery in exponential growth phase, whereas fewer number of highly fluorescent, much larger LDs were localized towards the center of the cell in the stationary phase. These advances demonstrate that cyanobacterial LDs are an ideal model platform to make industrially relevant compounds, such as alkanes, during exponential growth, and provide insight into LD formation in cyanobacteria.