skip to main content

SciTech ConnectSciTech Connect

Title: Systems Level Approaches to Understanding and Manipulating Heterocyst Differentiation in Nostoc Punctiforme: Sites of Hydrogenase and Nitrogenase Synthesis and Activity

Heterocysts are specialized cells that establish a physiologically low oxygen concentration; they function as the sites of oxygen-sensitive nitrogen fixation and hydrogen metabolism in certain filamentous cyanobacteria. They are present at a frequency of less than 10% of the cells and singly in a nonrandom spacing pattern in the filaments. The extent of differential gene expression during heterocyst differentiation was defined by DNA microarray analysis in wild type and mutant cultures of Nostoc punctiforme. The results in wild-type cultures identified two groups of genes; approximately 440 that are unique to heterocyst formation and function, and 500 that respond positively and negatively to the transient stress of nitrogen starvation. Nitrogen fixation is initiated within 24 h after induction, but the cultures require another 24 h before growth is reinitiated. Microarray analyses were conducted on strains with altered expression of three genes that regulate the presence and spacing of heterocysts in the filaments; loss of function or over expression of these genes increases the heterocyst frequency 2 to 3 fold compared to the wild-type. Mutations in the genes hetR and hetF result in the inability to differentiate heterocysts, whereas over expression of each gene individually yields multiple contiguous heterocysts at sites inmore » the filaments; they are positive regulatory elements. Mutation of the gene patN results in an increase in heterocysts frequency, but, in this case, the heterocysts are singly spaced in the filaments with a decrease in the number of vegetative cells in the interval between heterocysts; this is a negative regulatory element. However, over expression of patN resulted in the wild-type heterocyst frequency and spacing pattern. Microarray results indicated HetR and HetF influence the transcription of a common set of about 395 genes, as well as about 350 genes unique to each protein. HetR is known to be a transcriptional regulator and HetF is predicted to be a protease, perhaps operating thorough stability of HetR; thus, the influence of HetF on transcription of a unique set of genes was unanticipated. These two proteins are also found in non-heterocyst-forming filamentous cyanobacteria and the results have implications on their other physiological role(s). The PatN protein is unique to heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria. Cytological analysis indicated PatN is present in only one of the two daughter cells following division, but is present in both cell less than 8 h after division. Microarray analysis indicated only five genes were differentially transcribed in the patN mutant compared to the wild type; three up-regulated genes that are known to influence heterocyst differentiation and two down-regulated genes that have an unassigned function. Mutational analyses indicted the two down-regulated genes do not have a distinct role in heterocyst differentiation. Thus, PatN only indirectly impacts transcription. These databases provide lists of differentially transcribed genes involved in nitrogen starvation and cellular differentiation that can be mined for detailed genetic analysis of the regulation of heterocyst formation and function for subsequent photo-biohydrogen production.« less
  1. University of California, Davis, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of California, Davis, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
08 HYDROGEN; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Heterocyst, Transcriptome, Proteome, Mutants, Hydrogen, Nostoc, Nitrogenase, Hydrogenase