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The Inorganic Nutrient Regime and the mre Genes Regulate Cell and Filament Size and Morphology in the Phototrophic Multicellular Bacterium Anabaena


Cristina Velázquez-Suárez, Ignacio Luque y Antonia Herrero mSphere 2020, Vol. 5, e00747-20

The model cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 exhibits a phototrophic metabolism relying on oxygenic photosynthesis and a complex morphology. The organismic unit is a filament of communicated cells that may include cells specialized in different nutritional tasks, thus representing a paradigm of multicellular bacteria. In Anabaena, the inorganic carbon and nitrogen regime influenced not only growth, but also cell size, cell shape, and filament length, which also varied through the growth cycle. When using combined nitrogen, especially with abundant carbon, cells enlarged and elongated during active growth. When fixing N2, which imposed lower growth rates, shorter and smaller cells were maintained. In Anabaena, gene homologs to mreB, mreC, and mreD form an operon that was expressed at higher levels during the phase of fastest growth. In an ntcA mutant, mre transcript levels were higher than in the wild type and, consistently, cells were longer. Negative regulation by NtcA can explain that Anabaena cells were longer in the presence of combined nitrogen than in diazotrophic cultures, in which the levels of NtcA are higher. mreB, mreC, and mreD mutants could grow with combined nitrogen, but only the latter mutant could grow diazotrophically. Cells were always larger and shorter than wild-type cells, and their orientation in the filament was inverted. Consistent with increased peptidoglycan width and incorporation in the intercellular septa, filaments were longer in the mutants, suggesting a role for MreB, MreC, and MreD in the construction of septal peptidoglycan that could affect intercellular communication required for diazotrophic growth.

DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00747-20


Cristina Velázquez