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  1. Sogaard-Andersen, Lotte (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Surface motility powered by type IV pili (T4P) is widespread among bacteria, including the photosynthetic cyanobacteria. This form of movement typically requires the deposition of a motility-associated polysaccharide, and several studies indicate that there is complex coregulation of T4P motor activity and polysaccharide production, although a mechanistic understanding of this coregulation is not fully defined. Here, using a combination of genetic, comparative genomic, transcriptomic, protein-protein interaction, and cytological approaches in the model filamentous cyanobacterium N. punctiforme , we provided evidence that a DnaK-type chaperone system coupled the activity of the T4P motors to the production of the motility-associated hormogoniummore »polysaccharide (HPS). The results from these studies indicated that DnaK1 and DnaJ3 along with GrpE comprised a chaperone system that interacted specifically with active T4P motors and was required to produce HPS. Genomic conservation in cyanobacteria and the conservation of the protein-protein interaction network in the model unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803 imply that this system is conserved among nearly all motile cyanobacteria and provides a mechanism to coordinate polysaccharide secretion and T4P activity in these organisms. IMPORTANCE Many bacteria, including photosynthetic cyanobacteria, exhibit type IV pili (T4P) driven surface motility. In cyanobacteria, this form of motility facilitates dispersal, phototaxis, the formation of supracellular structures, and the establishment of nitrogen-fixing symbioses with eukaryotes. T4P-powered motility typically requires the deposition of motility-associated polysaccharides, and previous studies indicate that T4P activity and polysaccharide production are intimately linked. However, the mechanism by which these processes are coupled is not well defined. Here, we identified and characterized a DnaK(Hsp70)-type chaperone system that coordinates these two processes in cyanobacteria.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 14, 2023
  2. Stalk lodging, or failure of the stalk structure, is a serious problem in the production of maize (corn). Addressing this problem requires an understanding of the parameters that influence lodging resistance. Computational modelling is a powerful tool for this purpose, but current modelling methods have limited throughput and do not provide the ability to modify individual geometric features. A parameterised model of the maize stalk has the potential to overcome these limitations. The purposes of this study were to (a) develop a parameterised model of the maize stalk cross-section that could accurately simulate the physical response of multiple loading cases,more »and (b) use this model to rigorously investigate the relationships between cross-sectional morphology and predictive model accuracy. Principal component analysis was utilised to reveal underlying geometric patterns which were used as parameters in a cross-sectional model. A series of approximated cross-sections was created that represented various levels of geometric fidelity. The true and approximated cross-sections were modelled in axial tension/compression, bending, transverse compression, and torsion. For each loading case, the predictive accuracy of each approximated model was calculated. A sensitivity study was also performed to quantify the influence of individual parameters. The simplest model, an elliptical cross-section consisting of just three parameters: major diameter, minor diameter, and rind thickness, accurately predicted the structural stiffness of all four loading cases. The modelling approach used in this study model can be used to parameterise the maize cross-section to any desired level of geometric fidelity, and could be applied to other plant species.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  3. The Navigation by Chemotextural Familiarity Hypothesis (NCFH) suggests that scorpions use their midventral pectines to gather chemical and textural information near their burrows and use this information as they subsequently return home. For NCFH to be viable, animals must somehow acquire home-directed “tastes” of the substrate, such as through path integration (PI) and/or learning walks. We conducted laboratory behavioral trials using desert grassland scorpions (Paruroctonus utahensis). Animals reliably formed burrows in small mounds of sand we provided in the middle of circular, sandlined behavioral arenas. We processed overnight infrared video recordings with a MATLAB script that tracked animal movements atmore »1-2 s intervals. In all, we analyzed the movements of 23 animals, representing nearly 1500 hours of video recording. We found that once animals established their home burrows, they immediately made one to several short, looping excursions away from and back to their burrows before walking greater distances. We also observed similar excursions when animals made burrows in level sand in the middle of the arena (i.e., no mound provided). These putative learning walks, together with recently reported PI in scorpions, may provide the crucial home-directed information requisite for NCFH.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 30, 2022
  4. The maize (Zea mays) stem is a biological structure that must balance both biotic and structural load bearing duties. These competing requirements are particularly relevant in the design of new bioenergy crops. Although increased stem digestibility is typically associated with a lower structural strength and higher propensity for lodging, with the right balance between structural and biological activities it may be possible to design crops that are high-yielding and have digestible biomass. This study investigates the hypothesis that geometric factors are much more influential in determining structural strength than tissue properties. To study these influences, both physical and in silicomore »experiments were used. First, maize stems were tested in three-point bending. Specimen-specific finite element models were created based on x-ray computed tomography scans. Models were validated by comparison with experimental data. Sensitivity analyses were used to assess the influence of structural parameters such as geometric and material properties. As hypothesized, geometry was found to have a much stronger influence on structural stability than material properties. This information reinforces the notion that deficiencies in tissue strength could be offset by manipulation of stalk morphology, thus allowing the creation of stalks which are both resilient and digestible.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 14, 2023
  5. Hormogonia are motile filaments produced by many filamentous cyanobacteria that function in dispersal, phototaxis and the establishment of nitrogen-fixing symbioses. The gene regulatory network promoting hormogonium development is initiated by the hybrid histidine kinase HrmK, which in turn activates a sigma factor cascade consisting of SigJ, SigC and SigF. In this study, cappable-seq was employed to define the primary transcriptome of developing hormogonia in the model filamentous cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 in both the wild-type, and sigJ , sigC and sigF mutant strains 6 h post-hormogonium induction. A total of 1544 transcriptional start sites (TSSs) were identified that are associatedmore »with protein-coding genes and are expressed at levels likely to lead to biologically relevant transcripts in developing hormogonia. TSS expression among the sigma-factor deletion strains was highly consistent with previously reported gene expression levels from RNAseq experiments, and support the current working model for the role of these genes in hormogonium development. Analysis of SigJ-dependent TSSs corroborated the presence of the previously identified J-Box in the −10 region of SigJ-dependent promoters. Additionally, the data presented provides new insights on sequence conservation within the −10 regions of both SigC- and SigF-dependent promoters, and demonstrates that SigJ and SigC coordinate complex co-regulation not only of hormogonium-specific genes at different loci, but within an individual operon. As progress continues on defining the hormogonium gene regulatory network, this data set will serve as a valuable resource.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 15, 2022
  6. Motility is ubiquitous in prokaryotic organisms including the photosynthetic cyanobacteria where surface motility powered by type 4 pili (T4P) is common and facilitates phototaxis to seek out favorable light environments. In cyanobacteria, chemotaxis-like systems are known to regulate motility and phototaxis. The characterized phototaxis systems rely on methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins containing bilin-binding GAF domains capable of directly sensing light, and the mechanism by which they regulate the T4P is largely undefined. In this study we demonstrate that cyanobacteria possess a second, GAF-independent, means of sensing light to regulate motility and provide insight into how a chemotaxis-like system regulates the T4Pmore »motors. A combination of genetic, cytological, and protein–protein interaction analyses, along with experiments using the proton ionophore carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazine, indicate that the Hmp chemotaxis-like system of the model filamentous cyanobacteriumNostoc punctiformeis capable of sensing light indirectly, possibly via alterations in proton motive force, and modulates direct interaction between the cyanobacterial taxis protein HmpF, and Hfq, PilT1, and PilT2 to regulate the T4P motors. Given that the Hmp system is widely conserved in cyanobacteria, and the finding from this study that orthologs of HmpF and T4P proteins from the distantly related model unicellular cyanobacteriumSynechocystissp. strain PCC6803 interact in a similar manner to theirN. punctiformecounterparts, it is likely that this represents a ubiquitous means of regulating motility in response to light in cyanobacteria.

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  7. ABSTRACT Filamentous, heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria belonging to taxonomic subsections IV and V are developmentally complex multicellular organisms capable of differentiating an array of cell and filament types, including motile hormogonia. Hormogonia exhibit gliding motility that facilitates dispersal, phototaxis, and the establishment of nitrogen-fixing symbioses. The gene regulatory network (GRN) governing hormogonium development involves a hierarchical sigma factor cascade, but the factors governing the activation of this cascade are currently undefined. Here, using a forward genetic approach, we identified hrmK , a gene encoding a putative hybrid histidine kinase that functions upstream of the sigma factor cascade. The deletion of hrmK producedmore »nonmotile filaments that failed to display hormogonium morphology or accumulate hormogonium-specific proteins or polysaccharide. Targeted transcriptional analyses using reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) demonstrated that hormogonium-specific genes both within and outside the sigma factor cascade are drastically downregulated in the absence of hrmK and that hrmK may be subject to indirect, positive autoregulation via sigJ and sigC . Orthologs of HrmK are ubiquitous among, and exclusive to, heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria. Collectively, these results indicate that hrmK functions upstream of the sigma factor cascade to initiate hormogonium development, likely by modulating the phosphorylation state of an unknown protein that may serve as the master regulator of hormogonium development in heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria. IMPORTANCE Filamentous cyanobacteria are morphologically complex, with several representative species amenable to routine genetic manipulation, making them excellent model organisms for the study of development. Furthermore, two of the developmental alternatives, nitrogen-fixing heterocysts and motile hormogonia, are essential to establish nitrogen-fixing symbioses with plant partners. These symbioses are integral to global nitrogen cycles and could be artificially recreated with crop plants to serve as biofertilizers, but to achieve this goal, detailed understanding and manipulation of the hormogonium and heterocyst gene regulatory networks may be necessary. Here, using the model organism Nostoc punctiforme , we identify a previously uncharacterized hybrid histidine kinase that is confined to heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria as the earliest known participant in hormogonium development.« less