An increase in the level of 2-oxoglutarate promotes heterocyst development in the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp

Author(s): Li JH, Laurent S, Konde V, Bédu S, Zhang CC

Abstract

In the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, a starvation of combined nitrogen induces differentiation of heterocysts, cells specialized in nitrogen fixation. How do filaments perceive the limitation of the source of combined nitrogen, and what determines the proportion of heterocysts? In cyanobacteria, 2-oxoglutarate provides a carbon skeleton for the incorporation of inorganic nitrogen. Recently, it has been proposed that the concentration of 2-oxoglutarate reflects the nitrogen status in cyanobacteria. To investigate the effect of 2-oxoglutarate on heterocyst development, a heterologous gene encoding a 2-oxoglutarate permease under the control of a regulated promoter was expressed in Anabaena sp. PCC 7120. The increase of 2-oxoglutarate within cells can trigger heterocyst differentiation in a subpopulation of filaments even in the presence of nitrate. In the absence of a source of combined nitrogen, it can increase heterocyst frequency, advance the timing of commitment to heterocyst development and further increase the proportion of heterocysts in a patS mutant. Here, it is proposed that the intracellular concentration of 2-oxoglutarate is involved in the determination of the proportion of the two cell types according to the carbon/nitrogen status of the filament.

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