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Title: A Ubiquitously Conserved Cyanobacterial Protein Phosphatase Essential for High Light Tolerance in a Fast-Growing Cyanobacterium
ABSTRACT Synechococcus elongatus UTEX 2973, the fastest-growing cyanobacterial strain known, optimally grows under extreme high light (HL) intensities of 1,500–2,500 μmol photons m −2 s −1 , which is lethal to most other photosynthetic microbes. We leveraged the few genetic differences between Synechococcus 2973 and the HL sensitive strain Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 to unravel factors essential for the high light tolerance. We identified a novel protein in Synechococcus 2973 that we have termed HltA for H igh l ight t olerance protein A . Using bioinformatic tools, we determined that HltA contains a functional PP2C-type protein phosphatase domain. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the PP2C domain belongs to the bacterial-specific Group II family and is closely related to the environmental stress response phosphatase RsbU. Additionally, we showed that unlike any previously described phosphatases, HltA contains a single N-terminal regulatory GAF domain. We found hltA to be ubiquitous throughout cyanobacteria, indicative of its potentially important role in the photosynthetic lifestyle of these oxygenic phototrophs. Mutations in the hltA gene resulted in severe defects specific to high light growth. These results provide evidence that hltA is a key factor in the tolerance of Synechococcus 2973 to high light and will open new insights more » into the mechanisms of cyanobacterial light stress response. IMPORTANCE Cyanobacteria are a diverse group of photosynthetic prokaryotes. The cyanobacterium Synechococcus 2973 is a high light tolerant strain with industrial promise due to its fast growth under high light conditions and the availability of genetic modification tools. Currently, little is known about the high light tolerance mechanisms of Synechococcus 2973, and there are many unknowns overall regarding high light tolerance of cyanobacteria. In this study, a comparative genomic analysis of Synechococcus 2973 identified a single nucleotide polymorphism in a locus encoding a serine phosphatase as a key factor for high light tolerance. This novel GAF-containing phosphatase was found to be the sole Group II metal-dependent protein phosphatase that is evolutionarily conserved throughout cyanobacteria. These results shed new light on the light response mechanisms of Synechococcus 2973, improving our understanding of environmental stress response. Additionally, this work will help facilitate the development of Synechococcus 2973 as an industrially useful organism. « less
Youssef, Noha H.
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Microbiology Spectrum
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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