Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Synechocystis


Bacterial phototaxis was first recognized over a century ago, but the method by which such small cells can sense the direction of illumination has remained puzzling. The unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 moves with Type IV pili and measures light intensity and color with a range of photoreceptors. Here, we show that individual Synechocystis cells do not respond to a spatiotemporal gradient in light intensity, but rather they directly and accurately sense the position of a light source. We show that directional light sensing is possible because Synechocystis cells act as spherical microlenses, allowing the cell to see a light source and move towards it. A high-resolution image of the light source is focused on the edge of the cell opposite to the source, triggering movement away from the focused spot. Spherical cyanobacteria are probably the world’s smallest and oldest example of a camera eye.

Concepts: DNA, Cyanobacteria, Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Light, Synechocystis, Pilus


Abstract In the present economy, difficulties to access energy sources are real drawbacks to maintain our current lifestyle. In fact, increasing interests have been gathered around efficient strategies to use energy sources that do not generate high CO2 titers. Thus, science-funding agencies have invested more resources into research on hydrogen among other biofuels as interesting energy vectors. This article reviews present energy challenges and frames it into the present fuel usage landscape. Different strategies for hydrogen production are explained and evaluated. Focus is on biological hydrogen production; fermentation and photon-fuelled hydrogen production are compared. Mathematical models in biology can be used to assess, explore and design production strategies for industrially relevant metabolites, such as biofuels. We assess the diverse construction and uses of genome-scale metabolic models of cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 to efficiently obtain biofuels. This organism has been studied as a potential photon-fuelled production platform for its ability to grow from carbon dioxide, water and photons, on simple culture media. Finally, we review studies that propose production strategies to weigh this organism’s viability as a biofuel production platform. Overall, the work presented in this review unveils the industrial capabilities of cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 to evolve interesting metabolites as a clean biofuel production platform.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Metabolism, Hydrogen, Yeast, Synechocystis, Hydrogen production, Biological hydrogen production


Global resource depletion poses a dramatic threat to our society and creates a strong demand for alternative resources that do not compete with the production of food. Meeting this challenge requires a thorough rethinking of all steps of the value chain regarding their sustainability resource demand and the possibility to substitute current, petrol-based supply-chains with renewable resources. This regards also the production of catalysts for chemical synthesis. Phototrophic microorganisms have attracted considerable attention as a biomanufacturing platform for the sustainable production of chemicals and biofuels. They allow the direct utilization of carbon dioxide and do not compete with food production. Photosynthetic enzyme production of catalysts would be a sustainable supply of these important components of the biotechnological and chemical industries. This paper focuses on the usefulness of recombinant cyanobacteria for the photosynthetic expression of enantioselective catalysts. As a proof of concept, we used the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 for the heterologous expression of two highly enantioselective enzymes.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Bacteria, Metabolism, Enzyme, Natural resource, Synechocystis


Environmental cues can stimulate a variety of single-cell responses, as well as collective behaviors that emerge within a bacterial community. These responses require signal integration and transduction, which can occur on a variety of time scales and often involve feedback between processes, for example, between growth and motility. Here, we investigate the dynamics of responses of the phototactic, unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 to complex light inputs that simulate the natural environments that cells typically encounter. We quantified single-cell motility characteristics in response to light of different wavelengths and intensities. We found that red and green light primarily affected motility bias rather than speed, while blue light inhibited motility altogether. When light signals were simultaneously presented from different directions, cells exhibited phototaxis along the vector sum of the light directions, indicating that cells can sense and combine multiple signals into an integrated motility response. Under a combination of antagonistic light signal regimes (phototaxis-promoting green light and phototaxis-inhibiting blue light), the ensuing bias was continuously tuned by competition between the wavelengths, and the community response was dependent on both bias and cell growth. The phototactic dynamics upon a rapid light shift revealed a wavelength dependence on the time scales of photoreceptor activation/deactivation. Thus, Synechocystis cells achieve exquisite integration of light inputs at the cellular scale through continuous tuning of motility, and the pattern of collective behavior depends on single-cell motility and population growth.IMPORTANCE The photosynthetic cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. exhibits phototaxis that is dependent on the incident light wavelength through the action of various photoreceptors. In natural environments, cells experience a set of highly dynamic and complex light inputs, yet how cells transduce multiple or dynamic inputs into motion is unknown. In this study, we measured the phototactic behaviors of single cells and communities as a function of light intensity or when illuminated by combinations of lights of different wavelengths or incidence directions. Responses to a spectrum of light regimes revealed that Synechocystis sp. integrates information about the light environment to tune its phototactic response, which is likely generated by competition among photoreceptors and the degree of wavelength-regulated growth to sensitively control the direction and degree of movement.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Wavelength, Synechocystis, Visible spectrum


BACKGROUND: The transcriptomes of several cyanobacterial strains have been shown to exhibit diurnal oscillation patterns, reflecting the diurnal phototrophic lifestyle of the organisms.The analysis of such genome-wide transcriptional oscillations is often facilitated by the use of clustering algorithms in conjunction with a number of pre-processing steps. Biological interpretation is usually focussed on the time and phase of expression of the resulting groups of genes.However, the use of microarray technology in such studies requires the normalization of pre-processing data, with unclear impact on the qualitative and quantitative features of the derived information on the number of oscillating transcripts and their respective phases. RESULTS: A microarray based evaluation of diurnal expression in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 is presented. As expected, the temporal expression patterns reveal strong oscillations in transcript abundance.We compare the Fourier transformation-based expression phase before and after the application of quantile normalization, median polishing, cyclical LOESS, and least oscillating set (LOS) normalization.Whereas LOS normalization mostly preserves the phases of the raw data, the remaining methods introduce systematic biases. In particular, quantile-normalization is found to introduce a phase-shift of 180°, effectively changing night-expressed genes into day-expressed ones. Comparison of a large number of clustering results of differently normalized data shows that the normalization method determines the result. Subsequent steps, such as the choice of data transformation, similarity measure, and clustering algorithm, only play minor roles.We find that the standardization and the DTF transformation are favorable for the clustering of time series in contrast to the 12m transformation. We use the cluster-wise functional enrichment of a clustering derived by LOS normalization, clustering using flowClust, and DFT transformation to derive the diurnal biological program of Synechocystis sp.. CONCLUSION: Application of quantile normalization, median polishing, and also cyclic LOESS normalization of the presented cyanobacterial dataset lead to increased numbers of oscillating genes and the systematic shift of the expression phase. The LOS normalization minimizes the observed detrimental effects. As previous analyses employed a variety of different normalization methods, a direct comparison of results must be treated with caution.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Molecular biology, Oscillation, Synechocystis, Seasonality


Specialized RNA endonucleases for the maturation of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-derived RNAs (crRNAs) are critical in CRISPR-CRISPR-associated protein (Cas) defence mechanisms. The Cas6 and Cas5d enzymes are the RNA endonucleases in many class 1 CRISPR-Cas systems. In some class 2 systems, maturation and effector functions are combined within a single enzyme or maturation proceeds through the combined actions of RNase III and trans-activating CRISPR RNAs (tracrRNAs). Three separate CRISPR-Cas systems exist in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Whereas Cas6-type enzymes act in two of these systems, the third, which is classified as subtype III-B variant (III-Bv), lacks cas6 homologues. Instead, the maturation of crRNAs proceeds through the activity of endoribonuclease E, leaving unusual 13- and 14-nucleotide-long 5'-handles. Overexpression of RNase E leads to overaccumulation and knock-down to the reduced accumulation of crRNAs in vivo, suggesting that RNase E is the limiting factor for CRISPR complex formation. Recognition by RNase E depends on a stem-loop in the CRISPR repeat, whereas base substitutions at the cleavage site trigger the appearance of secondary products, consistent with a two-step recognition and cleavage mechanism. These results suggest the adaptation of an otherwise very conserved housekeeping enzyme to accommodate new substrates and illuminate the impressive plasticity of CRISPR-Cas systems that enables them to function in particular genomic environments.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Enzyme, RNA, RNA interference, Ribonuclease, Synechocystis


Cyclic triterpenes constitute one of the most diverse groups of plant natural products. Besides the intriguing biochemistry of their biosynthetic pathways, plant triterpenes exhibit versatile bioactivities, including antimicrobial effects against plant and human pathogens. While prokaryotes have been extensively used for the heterologous production of other classes of terpenes, the synthesis of cyclic triterpenes, which inherently includes the two-step catalytic formation of the universal linear precursor 2,3-oxidosqualene, is still a major challenge. We thus explored the suitability of the metabolically versatile photosynthetic α-proteobacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus SB1003 and cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 as alternative hosts for biosynthesis of cyclic plant triterpenes. Therefore, 2,3-oxidosqualene production was implemented and subsequently combined with different cyclization reactions catalyzed by the representative oxidosqualene cyclases CAS1 (cycloartenol synthase), LUP1 (lupeol synthase), THAS1 (thalianol synthase) and MRN1 (marneral synthase) derived from model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. While successful accumulation of 2,3-oxidosqualene could be detected by LC-MS analysis in both hosts, cyclase expression resulted in differential production profiles. CAS1 catalyzed conversion to only cycloartenol, but expression of LUP1 yielded lupeol and a triterpenoid matching an oxidation product of lupeol, in both hosts. In contrast, THAS1 expression did not lead to cyclic product formation in either host, whereas MRN1-dependent production of marnerol and hydroxymarnerol was observed in Synechocystis but not in R. capsulatus. Our findings thus indicate that 2,3-oxidosqualene cyclization in heterologous phototrophic bacteria is basically feasible but efficient conversion depends on both the respective cyclase enzyme and individual host properties. Therefore, photosynthetic α-proteo- and cyanobacteria are promising alternative candidates for providing new bacterial access to the broad class of triterpenes for biotechnological applications.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Enzyme, Model organism, Synechocystis


Photosynthetic bacteria are capable of producing their own food via photosynthesis. Unsurprisingly, they evolved the ability to move toward better light conditions (i.e., phototaxis). In a recent article in mBio, Chau et al. tuned the wavelength, flux, direction, and timing of light input and characterized the motility of the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803 (R. M. W. Chau, D. Bhaya, and K. C. Huang, mBio 8:e02330-16, 2017, The results revealed an intricate dependence of the motility on various light inputs, laying the fundamental groundwork toward understanding phototaxis under complex and dynamic light environments.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Oxygen, Archaea, Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Synechocystis


Photosynthetic cyanobacteria have been studied as potential host organisms for direct solar-driven production of different carbon-based chemicals from CO2and water, as part of the development of sustainable future biotechnological applications. The engineering approaches, however, are still limited by the lack of comprehensive information on most optimal expression strategies and validated species-specific genetic elements which are essential for increasing the intricacy, predictability and efficiency of the systems. This study focused on the systematic evaluation of the key translational control elements, ribosome binding sites (RBS), in the cyanobacterial host Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, with the objective of expanding the palette of tools for more rigorous engineering approaches.

Concepts: DNA, Cyanobacteria, Protein, Gene, Cell, Bacteria, Evolution, Synechocystis


Increasing photosynthetic efficiency is crucial to increasing biomass production to meet the growing demands for food and energy. Previous theoretical arithmetic analysis suggests that the light reactions and dark reactions are imperfectly coupled due to shortage of ATP supply, or accumulation of NADPH. Here we hypothesized that solely increasing NADPH consumption might improve the coupling of light reactions and dark reactions, thereby increasing the photosynthetic efficiency and biomass production. To test this hypothesis, an NADPH consumption pathway was constructed in cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The resulting extra NADPH-consuming mutant grew much faster and achieved a higher biomass concentration. Analyses of photosynthesis characteristics showed the activities of photosystem II and photosystem I and the light saturation point of the NADPH-consuming mutant all significantly increased. Thus, we demonstrated that introducing extra NADPH consumption ability is a promising strategy to increase photosynthetic efficiency and to enable utilization of high-intensity lights.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Scientific method, Light, Photosystem, Synechocystis, Thylakoid, Light-dependent reactions