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J Bacteriol. 1988 Nov;170(11):5034-41.

Deletion of a 55-kilobase-pair DNA element from the chromosome during heterocyst differentiation of Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843.


The filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 produces terminally differentiated heterocysts in response to a lack of combined nitrogen. Heterocysts are found approximately every 10th cell along the filament and are morphologically and biochemically specialized for nitrogen fixation. At least two DNA rearrangements occur during heterocyst differentiation in Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, both the result of developmentally regulated site-specific recombination. The first is an 11-kilobase-pair (kb) deletion from within the 3' end of the nifD gene. The second rearrangement occurs near the nifS gene but has not been completely characterized. The DNA sequences found at the recombination sites for each of the two rearrangements show no similarity to each other. To determine the topology of the rearrangement near the nifS gene, cosmid libraries of vegetative-cell genomic DNA were constructed and used to clone the region of the chromosome involved in the rearrangement. Cosmid clones which spanned the DNA separating the two recombination sites that define the ends of the element were obtained. The restriction map of this region of the chromosome showed that the rearrangement was the deletion of a 55-kb DNA element from the heterocyst chromosome. The excised DNA was neither degraded nor amplified, and its function, if any, is unknown. The 55-kb element was not detectably transcribed in either vegetative cells or heterocysts. The deletion resulted in placement of the rbcLS operon about 10 kb from the nifS gene on the chromosome. Although the nifD 11-kb and nifS 55-kb rearrangements both occurred under normal aerobic heterocyst-inducing conditions, only the 55-kb excision occurred in argon-bubbled cultures, indicating that the two DNA rearrangements can be regulated differently.

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