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BMC Microbiol. 2009 Dec 1;9:247. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-9-247.

Transcriptional analysis of the jamaicamide gene cluster from the marine cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula and identification of possible regulatory proteins.

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Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.



The marine cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula is a prolific producer of bioactive secondary metabolites. Although biosynthetic gene clusters encoding several of these compounds have been identified, little is known about how these clusters of genes are transcribed or regulated, and techniques targeting genetic manipulation in Lyngbya strains have not yet been developed. We conducted transcriptional analyses of the jamaicamide gene cluster from a Jamaican strain of Lyngbya majuscula, and isolated proteins that could be involved in jamaicamide regulation.


An unusually long untranslated leader region of approximately 840 bp is located between the jamaicamide transcription start site (TSS) and gene cluster start codon. All of the intergenic regions between the pathway ORFs were transcribed into RNA in RT-PCR experiments; however, a promoter prediction program indicated the possible presence of promoters in multiple intergenic regions. Because the functionality of these promoters could not be verified in vivo, we used a reporter gene assay in E. coli to show that several of these intergenic regions, as well as the primary promoter preceding the TSS, are capable of driving beta-galactosidase production. A protein pulldown assay was also used to isolate proteins that may regulate the jamaicamide pathway. Pulldown experiments using the intergenic region upstream of jamA as a DNA probe isolated two proteins that were identified by LC-MS/MS. By BLAST analysis, one of these had close sequence identity to a regulatory protein in another cyanobacterial species. Protein comparisons suggest a possible correlation between secondary metabolism regulation and light dependent complementary chromatic adaptation. Electromobility shift assays were used to evaluate binding of the recombinant proteins to the jamaicamide promoter region.


Insights into natural product regulation in cyanobacteria are of significant value to drug discovery and biotechnology. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to characterize the transcription and regulation of secondary metabolism in a marine cyanobacterium. If jamaicamide is light regulated, this mechanism would be similar to other cyanobacterial natural product gene clusters such as microcystin LR. These findings could aid in understanding and potentially assisting the management of toxin production by Lyngbya in the environment.

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