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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Jul;57(1):111-23.

Inactivation of patS and hetN causes lethal levels of heterocyst differentiation in the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.


In the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 patS and hetN suppress the differentiation of vegetative cells into nitrogen-fixing heterocysts to establish and maintain a pattern of single heterocysts separated by approximately 10 undifferentiated vegetative cells. Here we show that the patS- and hetN-dependent suppression pathways are the only major factors that prevent vegetative cells from differentiating into heterocysts when a source of ammonia is not present. The patS and hetN pathways are independent of each other, and inactivation of both patS and hetN leads to differentiation of almost all cells of a filament in the absence of a source of fixed nitrogen, compared with approximately 9% in the wild type. Complete differentiation of filaments also occurs when nitrate is supplied as a source of fixed nitrogen, conditions that do not induce differentiation of wild-type filaments. However, ammonia is still capable of suppressing differentiation. The percentage of cells that differentiate into heterocysts appears to be a function of time when a source of fixed nitrogen is absent or a function of growth phase when nitrate is supplied. Although differentiation proceeds unchecked in the absence of patS and hetN expression, differentiation is asynchronous and non-random.

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