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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38749. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038749. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Function and regulation of Vibrio campbellii proteorhodopsin: acquired phototrophy in a classical organoheterotroph.

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Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, United States of America.


Proteorhodopsins (PRs) are retinal-binding photoproteins that mediate light-driven proton translocation across prokaryotic cell membranes. Despite their abundance, wide distribution and contribution to the bioenergy budget of the marine photic zone, an understanding of PR function and physiological significance in situ has been hampered as the vast majority of PRs studied to date are from unculturable bacteria or culturable species that lack the tools for genetic manipulation. In this study, we describe the presence and function of a horizontally acquired PR and retinal biosynthesis gene cluster in the culturable and genetically tractable bioluminescent marine bacterium Vibrio campbellii. Pigmentation analysis, absorption spectroscopy and photoinduction assays using a heterologous over-expression system established the V. campbellii PR as a functional green light absorbing proton pump. In situ analyses comparing PR expression and function in wild type (WT) V. campbellii with an isogenic ΔpR deletion mutant revealed a marked absence of PR membrane localization, pigmentation and light-induced proton pumping in the ΔpR mutant. Comparative photoinduction assays demonstrated the distinct upregulation of pR expression in the presence of light and PR-mediated photophosphorylation in WT cells that resulted in the enhancement of cellular survival during respiratory stress. In addition, we demonstrate that the master regulator of adaptive stress response and stationary phase, RpoS1, positively regulates pR expression and PR holoprotein pigmentation. Taken together, the results demonstrate facultative phototrophy in a classical marine organoheterotrophic Vibrio species and provide a salient example of how this organism has exploited lateral gene transfer to further its adaptation to the photic zone.

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