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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Dec 15; 90(24): 11840–11844.

A gene encoding a protein related to eukaryotic protein kinases from the filamentous heterocystous cyanobacterium Anabaena PCC 7120.


Protein kinases play essential roles in the development of eukaryotic cells. These enzymes display various degrees of sequence similarity in their catalytic domains. This conservation has allowed the identification of protein kinases in a variety of organisms, including the Gram-negative bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. In this study, sequences related to those encoding eukaryotic protein kinases were amplified by PCR from DNA of Anabaena PCC 7120, a filamentous cyanobacterium that differentiates cells specifically for nitrogen fixation, called heterocysts, under conditions of combined nitrogen limitation. Results from Southern hybridization and sequencing of PCR products suggest the presence of a family of similar protein kinases in this strain. One of the corresponding genes (pknA) was isolated from a gene library. The N-terminal region of its amino acid sequence shows significant similarity to the catalytic domains of eukaryotic-type protein kinases. Expression of this gene was found to be developmentally regulated. Inactivation of pknA led to colonies that appeared light green and rough in the absence of combined nitrogen. Mutant filaments produce fewer heterocysts than wild-type ones. These results suggest that pknA is required for both normal cellular growth and differentiation of Anabaena PCC 7120.

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