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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Apr;79(8):2642-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03499-12. Epub 2013 Feb 8.

Putative antiparasite defensive system involving ribosomal and nonribosomal oligopeptides in cyanobacteria of the genus Planktothrix.

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Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Institute for Plant and Environmental Sciences, Ås, Norway.


Parasitic chytrid fungi can inflict significant mortality on cyanobacteria but frequently fail to keep cyanobacterial dominance and bloom formation in check. Our study tested whether oligopeptide production, a common feature in many cyanobacteria, can be a defensive mechanism against chytrid parasitism. The study employed the cyanobacterial strain Planktothrix NIVA-CYA126/8 and its mutants with knockout mutations for microcystins, anabaenopeptins, and microviridins, major oligopeptide classes to be found in NIVA-CYA126/8. Four chytrid strains were used as parasite models. They are obligate parasites of Planktothrix and are unable to exploit alternative food sources. All chytrid strains were less virulent to the NIVA-CYA126/8 wild type than to at least one of its oligopeptide knockout mutants. One chytrid strain even failed to infect the wild type, while exhibiting considerable virulence to all mutants. It is therefore evident that producing microcystins, microviridins, and/or anabaenopeptins can reduce the virulence of chytrids to Planktothrix, thereby increasing the host's chance of survival. Microcystins and anabaenopeptins are nonribosomal oligopeptides, while microviridins are produced ribosomally, suggesting that Planktothrix resists chytrids by relying on metabolites that are produced via distinct biosynthetic pathways. Chytrids, on the other hand, can adapt to the oligopeptides produced by Planktothrix in different ways. This setting most likely results in an evolutionary arms race, which would probably lead to Planktothrix and chytrid population structures that closely resemble those actually found in nature. In summary, the findings of the present study suggest oligopeptide production in Planktothrix to be part of a defensive mechanism against chytrid parasitism.

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