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Photosynth Res. 2005;83(2):135-50.

Ammonium assimilation in cyanobacteria.

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  • 1Instituto de Bioquímica Vegetal y Fotosíntesis, Centro de Investigaciones Isla de la Cartuja, Universidad de Sevilla-CSIC, Av. Américo Vespucio s/n, Seville 41092, Spain. imuro@


In cyanobacteria, after transport by specific permeases, ammonium is incorporated into carbon skeletons by the sequential action of glutamine synthetase (GS) and glutamate synthase (GOGAT). Two types of GS (GSI and GSIII) and two types of GOGAT (ferredoxin-GOGAT and NADH-GOGAT) have been characterized in cyanobacteria. The carbon skeleton substrate of the GS-GOGAT pathway is 2-oxoglutarate that is synthesized by the isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH). In order to maintain the C-N balance and the amino acid pools homeostasis, ammonium assimilation is tightly regulated. The key regulatory point is the GS, which is controlled at transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. The transcription factor NtcA plays a critical role regulating the expression of the GS and the IDH encoding genes. In the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, NtcA controls also the expression of two small proteins (IF7 and IF17) that inhibit the activity of GS by direct protein-protein interaction. Cyanobacteria perceive nitrogen status by sensing the intracellular concentration of 2-oxoglutarate, a signaling metabolite that is able to modulate allosterically the function of NtcA, in vitro. In vivo, a functional dependence between NtcA and the signal transduction protein PII in controlling NtcA-dependent genes has been also shown.

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