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Microbiology. 2012 Jun;158(Pt 6):1437-43. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.057729-0. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

The pknH gene restrictively expressed in heterocysts is required for diazotrophic growth in the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120.

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Department of Biological Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan.


Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 is a filamentous cyanobacterium in which certain vegetative cells differentiate into heterocysts, which are specialized cells for nitrogen fixation. Heterocysts are unable to carry out photosynthesis and are supplied with carbohydrate required for nitrogen fixation from neighbouring vegetative cells. Thus, filament integrity is very important for diazotrophic growth of the heterocystous cyanobacteria. The pknH gene (alr1336), encoding a putative Ser/Thr protein kinase, was upregulated in heterocysts after nitrogen deprivation. Its expression was developmentally regulated by the hetR gene. Expression levels of genes involved in heterocyst maturation, such as hepA, hglE and nifH, in the pknH disruptant were similar to those of the wild-type strain. The disruptant was able to form heterocysts with nitrogenase activity, but most heterocysts were detached from filaments. Hence, the pknH disruptant showed a growth defect in the medium without combined nitrogen. It is concluded that the pknH gene is not involved in the development of heterocyst function but is involved in maintaining connections between heterocysts and vegetative cells.

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