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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025050. Epub 2011 Sep 20.

Diverse arrangement of photosynthetic gene clusters in aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria.

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State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China.



Aerobic anoxygenic photototrophic (AAP) bacteria represent an important group of marine microorganisms inhabiting the euphotic zone of the ocean. They harvest light using bacteriochlorophyll (BChl) a and are thought to be important players in carbon cycling in the ocean.


Aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic (AAP) bacteria represent an important part of marine microbial communities. Their photosynthetic apparatus is encoded by a number of genes organized in a so-called photosynthetic gene cluster (PGC). In this study, the organization of PGCs was analyzed in ten AAP species belonging to the orders Rhodobacterales, Sphingomonadales and the NOR5/OM60 clade. Sphingomonadales contained comparatively smaller PGCs with an approximately size of 39 kb whereas the average size of PGCs in Rhodobacterales and NOR5/OM60 clade was about 45 kb. The distribution of four arrangements, based on the permutation and combination of the two conserved regions bchFNBHLM-LhaA-puhABC and crtF-bchCXYZ, does not correspond to the phylogenetic affiliation of individual AAP bacterial species. While PGCs of all analyzed species contained the same set of genes for bacteriochlorophyll synthesis and assembly of photosynthetic centers, they differed largely in the carotenoid biosynthetic genes. Spheroidenone, spirilloxanthin, and zeaxanthin biosynthetic pathways were found in each clade respectively. All of the carotenoid biosynthetic genes were found in the PGCs of Rhodobacterales, however Sphingomonadales and NOR5/OM60 strains contained some of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway genes outside of the PGC.


Our investigations shed light on the evolution and functional implications in PGCs of marine aerobic anoxygenic phototrophs, and support the notion that AAP are a heterogenous physiological group phylogenetically scattered among Proteobacteria.

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