Photosynthesis Research (v.118, #1-2)

An Indo-US workshop on “Cyanobacteria: molecular networks to biofuels” was held December 16–20, 2012 at Lagoona Resort, Lonavala, India. The workshop was jointly organized by two of the authors, PPW, a chemical engineer and LAS, a biologist, thereby ensuring a broad and cross-disciplinary participation. The main objective of the workshop was to bring researchers from academia and industry of the two countries together with common interests in cyanobacteria or microalgae and derived biofuels. An exchange of ideas resulted from a series of oral and poster presentations and, importantly, through one-on-one discussions during tea breaks and meals. Another key objective was to introduce young researchers of India to the exciting field of cyanobacterial physiology, modeling, and biofuels. PhD students and early stage researchers were especially encouraged to participate and about half of the 75 participants belonged to this category. The rest were comprised of senior researchers, including 13–15 invited speakers from each country. Overall, twenty-four institutes from 12 states of India were represented. The deliberations, which are being compiled in the present special issue, revolved mainly around molecular aspects of cyanobacterial biofuels including metabolic engineering, networks, genetic regulation, circadian rhythms, and stress responses. Representatives of some key funding agencies and industry provided a perspective and opportunities in the field and for bilateral collaboration. This article summarizes deliberations that took place at the meeting and provides a bird’s eye view of the ongoing research in the field in the two countries.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Metabolism; Biofuels; Metabolic modeling; Indo-US exchange; Molecular networks

Cyanobacteria have evolved a unique carbon fixation organelle known as the carboxysome that compartmentalizes the enzymes RuBisCO and carbonic anhydrase. This effectively increases the local CO2 concentration at the active site of RuBisCO and decreases its relatively unproductive side reaction with oxygen. Carboxysomes consist of a protein shell composed of hexameric and pentameric proteins arranged in icosahedral symmetry. Facets composed of hexameric proteins are connected at the vertices by pentameric proteins. Structurally homologous pentamers and hexamers are also found in heterotrophic bacteria where they form architecturally related microcompartments such as the Eut and Pdu organelles for the metabolism of ethanolamine and propanediol, respectively. Here we describe two new high-resolution structures of the pentameric shell protein CcmL from the cyanobacteria Thermosynechococcus elongatus and Gloeobacter violaceus and provide detailed analysis of their characteristics and comparison with related shell proteins.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Microcompartment; Carboxysome; CcmL

Probing the consequences of antenna modification in cyanobacteria by Michelle Liberton; Aaron M. Collins; Lawrence E. Page; William B. O’Dell; Hugh O’Neill; Volker S. Urban; Jerilyn A. Timlin; Himadri B. Pakrasi (17-24).
Photosynthetic organisms rely on antenna systems to harvest and deliver energy from light to reaction centers. In fluctuating photic environments, regulation of light harvesting is critical for a photosynthetic organism’s survival. Here, we describe the use of a suite of phycobilisome mutants to probe the consequences of antenna truncation in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Studies using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), hyperspectral confocal fluorescence microscopy (HCFM), small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), and an optimized photobioreactor system have unraveled the adaptive strategies that cells employ to compensate for antenna reduction. As the phycobilisome antenna size decreased, changes in thylakoid morphology were more severe and physical segregation of the two photosystems increased. Repeating distances between thylakoid membranes measured by SANS were correlated with TEM data, and corresponded to the degree of phycobilisome truncation. Thylakoid membranes were found to have a high degree of structural flexibility, and changes in the membrane system upon illumination were rapid and reversible. Phycobilisome truncation in Synechocystis 6803 reduced the growth rate and lowered biomass accumulation. Together, these results lend a dynamic perspective to the intracellular membrane organization in cyanobacteria cells and suggest an adaptive mechanism that allows cells to adjust to altered light absorption capabilities, while highlighting the cell-wide implications of antenna truncation.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Photosynthesis; Thylakoid; Neutron scattering; Hyperspectral imaging; Photobioreactor

Analysis of carbohydrate storage granules in the diazotrophic cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. PCC 7822 by David G. Welkie; Debra M. Sherman; William B. Chrisler; Galya Orr; Louis A. Sherman (25-36).
The unicellular diazotrophic cyanobacteria of the genus Cyanothece demonstrate oscillations in nitrogenase activity and H2 production when grown under 12 h light–12 h dark cycles. We established that Cyanothece sp. PCC 7822 allows for the construction of knock-out mutants and our objective was to improve the growth characteristics of this strain and to identify the nature of the intracellular storage granules. We report the physiological and morphological effects of reduction in nitrate and phosphate concentrations in BG-11 media on this strain. We developed a series of BG-11-derived growth media and monitored batch culture growth, nitrogenase activity and nitrogenase-mediated hydrogen production, culture synchronicity, and intracellular storage content. Reduction in NaNO3 and K2HPO4 concentrations from 17.6 and 0.23 to 4.41 and 0.06 mM, respectively, improved growth characteristics such as cell size and uniformity, and enhanced the rate of cell division. Cells grown in this low NP BG-11 were less complex, a parameter that related to the composition of the intracellular storage granules. Cells grown in low NP BG-11 had less polyphosphate, fewer polyhydroxybutyrate granules and many smaller granules became evident. Biochemical analysis and transmission electron microscopy using the histocytochemical PATO technique demonstrated that these small granules contained glycogen. The glycogen levels and the number of granules per cell correlated nicely with a 2.3 to 3.3-fold change from the minimum at L0 to the maximum at D0. The differences in granule morphology and enzymes between Cyanothece ATCC 51142 and Cyanothece PCC 7822 provide insights into the formation of large starch-like granules in some cyanobacteria.
Keywords: Cyanothece ; Cyanobacteria; Glycogen granules; Biohydrogen production; Carbon:nitrogen ratio; Nitrogen:phosphate ratio; N2 fixation

Polyhydroxybutyrate particles in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803: facts and fiction by Tin Ki Tsang; Robert W. Roberson; Wim F. J. Vermaas (37-49).
Transmission electron microscopy has been used to identify poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) granules in cyanobacteria for over 40 years. Spherical inclusions inside the cell that are electron-transparent and/or slightly electron-dense and that are found in transmission electron micrographs of cyanobacteria are generally assumed to be PHB granules. The aim of this study was to test this assumption in different strains of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Inclusions that resemble PHB granules were present in strains lacking a pair of genes essential for PHB synthesis and in wild-type cells under conditions that no PHB granules could be detected by fluorescence staining of PHB. Indeed, in these cells PHB could not be demonstrated chemically by GC/MS either. Based on the results gathered, it is concluded that not all the slightly electron-dense spherical inclusions are PHB granules in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. This result is potentially applicable to other cyanobacteria. Alternate assignments for these inclusions are discussed.
Keywords: Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate; Transmission electron microscopy; Granules; Cellular inclusions; Cyanobacteria

Diurnal rhythm of a unicellular diazotrophic cyanobacterium under mixotrophic conditions and elevated carbon dioxide by Sandeep B. Gaudana; Swathi Alagesan; Madhu Chetty; Pramod P. Wangikar (51-57).
Mixotrophic cultivation of cyanobacteria in wastewaters with flue gas sparging has the potential to simultaneously sequester carbon content from gaseous and aqueous streams and convert to biomass and biofuels. Therefore, it was of interest to study the effect of mixotrophy and elevated CO2 on metabolism, morphology and rhythm of gene expression under diurnal cycles. We chose a diazotrophic unicellular cyanobacterium Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142 as a model, which is a known hydrogen producer with robust circadian rhythm. Cyanothece 51142 grows faster with nitrate and/or an additional carbon source in the growth medium and at 3 % CO2. Intracellular glycogen contents undergo diurnal oscillations with greater accumulation under mixotrophy. While glycogen is exhausted by midnight under autotrophic conditions, significant amounts remain unutilized accompanied by a prolonged upregulation of nifH gene under mixotrophy. This possibly supports nitrogen fixation for longer periods thereby leading to better growth. To gain insights into the influence of mixotrophy and elevated CO2 on circadian rhythm, transcription of core clock genes kaiA, kaiB1 and kaiC1, the input pathway, cikA, output pathway, rpaA and representatives of key metabolic pathways was analyzed. Clock genes’ transcripts were lower under mixotrophy suggesting a dampening effect exerted by an external carbon source such as glycerol. Nevertheless, the genes of the clock and important metabolic pathways show diurnal oscillations in expression under mixotrophic and autotrophic growth at ambient and elevated CO2, respectively. Taken together, the results indicate segregation of light and dark associated reactions even under mixotrophy and provide important insights for further applications.
Keywords: Glycerol; CO2 ; Kai; Glycogen; Diazotroph; Cyanothece 51142

Oxidative stress management in the filamentous, heterocystous, diazotrophic cyanobacterium, Anabaena PCC7120 by Manisha Banerjee; Prashanth S. Raghavan; Anand Ballal; Hema Rajaram; S. K. Apte (59-70).
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are inevitably generated as by-products of respiratory/photosynthetic electron transport in oxygenic photoautotrophs. Unless effectively scavenged, these ROS can damage all cellular components. The filamentous, heterocystous, nitrogen-fixing strains of the cyanobacterium, Anabaena, serve as naturally abundant contributors of nitrogen biofertilizers in tropical rice paddy fields. Anabaena strains are known to tolerate several abiotic stresses, such as heat, UV, gamma radiation, desiccation, etc., that are known to generate ROS. ROS are detoxified by specific antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutases (SOD), catalases and peroxiredoxins. The genome of Anabaena PCC7120 encodes two SODs, two catalases and seven peroxiredoxins, indicating the presence of an elaborate antioxidant enzymatic machinery to defend its cellular components from ROS. This article summarizes recent findings and depicts important perspectives in oxidative stress management in Anabaena PCC7120.
Keywords: Anabaena ; Oxidative stress; ROS; Superoxide dismutase; Catalase; Peroxiredoxins

The filamentous nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 was found to tolerate very high doses of 60Co-gamma radiation or prolonged desiccation. Post-stress, cells remained intact and revived all the vital functions. A remarkable capacity to repair highly disintegrated genome and recycle the damaged proteome appeared to underlie such high radioresistance and desiccation tolerance. The close similarity observed between the cellular response to irradiation or desiccation stress lends strong support to the notion that tolerance to these stresses may involve similar mechanisms.
Keywords: Anabaena 7120; Radioresistance; Desiccation tolerance; Genome repair

Insights into the interactions of cyanobacteria with uranium by Celin Acharya; Shree Kumar Apte (83-94).
Due to various activities associated with nuclear industry, uranium is migrated to aquatic environments like groundwater, ponds or oceans. Uranium forms stable carbonate complexes in the oxic waters of pH 7–10 which results in a high degree of uranium mobility. Microorganisms employ various mechanisms which significantly influence the mobility and the speciation of uranium in aquatic environments. Uranyl bioremediation studies, this far, have generally focussed on low pH conditions and related to adsorption of positively charged UO2 2+ onto negatively charged microbial surfaces. Sequestration of anionic uranium species, i.e. [UO2(CO3) 2 2− ] and [UO2(CO3) 3 4− ] onto microbial surfaces has received only scant attention. Marine cyanobacteria are effective metal adsorbents and represent an important sink for metals in aquatic environment. This article addresses the cyanobacterial interactions with toxic metals in general while stressing on uranium. It focusses on the possible mechanisms employed by cyanobacteria to sequester uranium from aqueous solutions above circumneutral pH where negatively charged uranyl carbonate complexes dominate aqueous uranium speciation. The mechanisms demonstrated by cyanobacteria are important components of biogeochemical cycle of uranium and are useful for the development of appropriate strategies, either to recover or remediate uranium from the aquatic environments.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Uranium; Interaction mechanisms; Bioremediation; Biorecovery

Fremyella diplosiphon alters the phycobiliprotein composition of its light-harvesting complexes, i.e., phycobilisomes, and its cellular morphology in response to changes in the prevalent wavelengths of light in the external environment in a phenomenon known as complementary chromatic acclimation (CCA). The organism primarily responds to red light (RL) and green light (GL) during CCA to maximize light absorption for supporting optimal photosynthetic efficiency. Recently, we found that RL-characteristic spherical cell morphology is associated with higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) compared to growth under GL where lower ROS levels and rectangular cell shape are observed. The RL-dependent association of increased ROS levels with cellular morphology was demonstrated by treating cells with a ROS-scavenging antioxidant which resulted in the observation of GL-characteristic rectangular morphology under RL. To gain additional insights into the involvement of ROS in impacting cellular morphology changes during CCA, we conducted experiments to study the temporal dynamics of changes in ROS levels and cellular morphology during transition to growth under RL or GL. Alterations in ROS levels and cell morphology were found to be correlated with each other at early stages of acclimation of low white light-grown cells to growth under high RL or cells transitioned between growth in RL and GL. These results provide further general evidence that significant RL-dependent increases in ROS levels are temporally correlated with changes in morphology toward spherical. Future studies will explore the light-dependent mechanisms by which ROS levels may be regulated and the direct impacts of ROS on the observed morphology changes.
Keywords: Complementary chromatic acclimation; Cyanobacteria; Morphology; Photobiology; Reactive oxygen species

Salt and UV-B induced changes in Anabaena PCC 7120: physiological, proteomic and bioinformatic perspectives by Snigdha Rai; Shilpi Singh; Alok Kumar Shrivastava; L. C. Rai (105-114).
This study examines response of Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 to salt and UV-B stress by combining physiological, biochemical, proteomics and bioinformatics approaches. Sixty five significantly altered protein spots corresponding to 51 protein genes identified using MALDI-TOF MS/MS were divided into nine functional categories. Based on relative abundance, these proteins were grouped into four major sets. Of these, 27 and 5 proteins were up- and downregulated, respectively, both under salt and UV-B while 8 and 11 proteins showed accumulation in salt and UV-B applied singly. Some responses common to salt and UV-B included (i) enhanced expression of FeSOD, alr3090 and accumulation of MDA indicating oxidative stress, (ii) accumulation of PDH, G6P isomerase, FBPaldolase, TK, GAPDH and PGK suggesting enhanced glycolysis, (iii) upregulation of 6-PGD, 6PGL and NADPH levels signifying operation of pentose phosphate pathway, (iv) upregulation of Dps, NDK and alr3199 indicating DNA damage, and (v) accumulation of proteins of ribosome assembly, transcriptional and translational processing. In contrast, enhanced expression of RUBISCO, increased glycolate oxidase activity and ammonium content under salt signify the difference. Salt was found to be more damaging than UV-B probably due to a cumulative effect of ionic, osmotic and oxidative damage. A group of proteins having common expression represent decreased toxicity of salt and UV-B when applied in combination.
Keywords: Anabaena PCC 7120; Salt and UV-B stress; Comparative proteomics; 2-DE; MALDI-TOF MS/MS; Bioinformatics

Photosynthetic organisms possess regulatory mechanisms to balance the various inputs of photosynthesis in a manner that minimizes over-excitation of the light-driven electron transfer apparatus, while maximizing the reductive assimilation of inorganic nutrients, most importantly inorganic carbon (Ci). Accordingly, the regulatory interactions coordinating responses to fluctuating light and responses to Ci availability are of fundamental significance. The inducible high affinity carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM) in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 has been studied in order to understand how it is integrated with the light and dark reactions of photosynthesis. To probe genetic regulatory mechanisms, genomic DNA microarrays were used to survey for differences in the expression of genes in response to a shift to high light conditions under conditions of either high or low Ci availability. Discrepancies in published experiments exist regarding the extent to which genes for the CCM are upregulated in response to high light treatment. These discrepancies may be due to critical differences in Ci availability existing during the different high light experiments. The present microarray experiments reexamine this by comparing high light treatment under two different Ci regimes: bubbling with air and bubbling with air enriched with CO2. While some transcriptional responses such as the downregulation of antenna proteins are quite similar, pronounced differences exist with respect to the differential expression of CCM and affiliated genes. The results are discussed in the context of a recent analysis revealing that small molecules that are intermediates of the light and dark reaction photosynthetic metabolism act as allosteric effectors of the DNA-binding proteins which modulate the expression of the CCM genes.
Keywords: Calvin–Bashham–Benson cycle (CBB); Carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM); Cyanobacteria; High light; Inorganic carbon; Microarray; Photosystem

Metabolic potential of lithifying cyanobacteria-dominated thrombolitic mats by Jennifer M. Mobberley; Christina L. M. Khodadad; Jamie S. Foster (125-140).
Thrombolites are unlaminated carbonate deposits formed by the metabolic activities of microbial mats and can serve as potential models for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of lithifying communities. To assess the metabolic complexity of these ecosystems, high throughput DNA sequencing of a thrombolitic mat metagenome was coupled with phenotypic microarray analysis. Functional protein analysis of the thrombolite community metagenome delineated several of the major metabolic pathways that influence carbonate mineralization including cyanobacterial photosynthesis, sulfate reduction, sulfide oxidation, and aerobic heterotrophy. Spatial profiling of metabolite utilization within the thrombolite-forming microbial mats suggested that the top 5 mm contained a more metabolically diverse and active community than the deeper within the mat. This study provides evidence that despite the lack of mineral layering within the clotted thrombolite structure there is a vertical gradient of metabolic activity within the thrombolitic mat community. This metagenomic profiling also serves as a foundation for examining the active role individual functional groups of microbes play in coordinating metabolisms that lead to mineralization.
Keywords: Thrombolites; Microbial mats; Metagenome; Photosynthesis; Carbonate mineralization; Microbialites

Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of promising oil-bearing marine algae Parachlorella kessleri by Jayant Pralhad Rathod; Gunjan Prakash; Reena Pandit; Arvind M. Lali (141-146).
Parachlorella kessleri is a unicellular alga which grows in fresh as well as marine water and is commercially important as biomass/lipid feedstock and in bioremediation. The present study describes the successful transformation of marine P. kessleri with the help of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Transformed marine P. kessleri was able to tolerate more than 10 mg l−1 hygromycin concentration. Co-cultivation conditions were modulated to allow the simultaneous growth of both marine P. kessleri and A. tumefaciens. For co-cultivation, P. kessleri was shifted from Walne’s to tris acetate phosphate medium to reduce the antibiotic requirement during selection. In the present study, the transfer of T-DNA was successful without using acetosyringone. Biochemical and genetic analyses were performed for expression of transgenes by GUS assay and PCR in transformants. Establishment of this protocol would be useful in further genetic modification of oil-bearing Parachlorella species.
Keywords: Parachlorella kessleri ; Agrobacterium-mediated transformation; Co-cultivation; GUS assay; hpt gene; virC

Single-stranded (ss) DNA-binding (Ssb) proteins are vital for all DNA metabolic processes and are characterized by an N-terminal OB-fold followed by P/G-rich spacer region and a C-terminal tail. In the genome of the heterocystous, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, two genes alr0088 and alr7579 are annotated as ssb, but the corresponding proteins have only the N-terminal OB-fold and no P/G-rich region or acidic tail, thereby rendering them unable to interact with genome maintenance proteins. Both the proteins were expressed under normal growth conditions in Anabaena PCC7120 and regulated differentially under abiotic stresses which induce DNA damage, indicating that these are functional genes. Constitutive overexpression of Alr0088 in Anabaena enhanced the tolerance to DNA-damaging stresses which caused formation of DNA adducts such as UV and MitomycinC, but significantly decreased the tolerance to γ-irradiation, which causes single- and double-stranded DNA breaks. On the other hand, overexpression of Alr7579 had no significant effect on normal growth or stress tolerance of Anabaena. Thus, of the two truncated Ssb-like proteins, Alr0088 may be involved in protection of ssDNA from damage, but due to the absence of acidic tail, it may not aid in repair of damaged DNA. These two proteins are present across cyanobacterial genera and unique to them. These initial studies pave the way to the understanding of DNA repair in cyanobacteria, which is not very well documented.
Keywords: Anabaena ; Alr0088; Alr7579; DNA damage; OB-fold; Ssb; Stress tolerance

Metabolic modeling for multi-objective optimization of ethanol production in a Synechocystis mutant by Tirthankar Sengupta; Mani Bhushan; Pramod P. Wangikar (155-165).
Cyanobacteria have potential to produce drop-in bio-fuels such as ethanol via photoautotrophic metabolism. Although model cyanobacterial strains have been engineered to produce such products, systematic metabolic engineering studies to identify optimal strains for the same have not been performed. In this work, we identify optimal ethanol producing mutants corresponding to appropriate gene deletions that result in a suitable redirection in the carbon flux. In particular, we systematically simulate exhaustive single and double gene deletions considering a genome scale metabolic model of a mutant strain of the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis species strain PCC 6803. Various optimization based metabolic modeling techniques, such as flux balance analysis (FBA), method of minimization of metabolic adjustment (MOMA) and regulatory on/off minimization (ROOM) were used for this analysis. For single gene deletion MOMA simulations, the Pareto front with biomass and ethanol fluxes as the two objectives to be maximized was obtained and analyzed. Points on the Pareto front represent maximal utilization of resources constrained by substrate uptake thereby representing an optimal trade-off between the two fluxes. Pareto analysis was also performed for double gene deletion MOMA and single and double gene deletion ROOM simulations. Based on these analyses, two mutants, with combined gene deletions in ethanol and purine metabolism pathways, were identified as promising candidates for ethanol production. The relevant genes were adk, pta and ackA. An ethanol productivity of approximately 0.15 mmol/(gDW h) was predicted for these mutants which appears to be reasonable based on experimentally reported values in literature for other strains.
Keywords: Flux balance analysis; MOMA; ROOM; Ethanol; Synechocystis

Flux balance analysis of Chlorella sp. FC2 IITG under photoautotrophic and heterotrophic growth conditions by Muthusivaramapandian Muthuraj; Basavaraj Palabhanvi; Shamik Misra; Vikram Kumar; Kumaran Sivalingavasu; Debasish Das (167-179).
Quantification of carbon flux distribution in the metabolic network of microalgae remains important to understand the complex interplay between energy metabolism, carbon fixation, and assimilation pathways. This is even more relevant with respect to cyclic metabolism of microalgae under light–dark cycle. In the present study, flux balance analysis (FBA) was carried out for an indigenous isolate Chlorella sp. FC2 IITG under photoautotrophic and heterotrophic growth conditions. A shift in intracellular flux distribution was predicted during transition from nutrient sufficient phase to nutrient starvation phase of growth. Further, dynamic flux analysis (dFBA) was carried out to capture light–dark metabolism over discretized pseudo steady state time intervals. Our key findings include the following: (i) unlike heterotrophic condition, oxidative pentose phosphate (PP) pathway, and Krebs cycle were relatively inactive under photoautotrophic growth; (ii) in both growth conditions, while transhydrogenation reaction was highly active, glyoxalate shunt was found to be nonoperative; (iii) flux distribution during transition period was marked with up regulation of carbon flux toward nongrowth associated (NGA) maintenance energy, oxidative phosphorylation, and photophosphorylation; (iv) redirection of carbon flux from polysaccharide and neutral lipid resulted in up regulation of Krebs cycle flux in the dark phase; (v) elevated glycolytic and acetyl-CoA flux were coupled with induction of neutral lipid during light cycle of the growth; (vi) significantly active photophosphorylation in the light phase was able to satisfy cellular energy requirement without need of oxidative PP pathway; and (vi) unlike static FBA, dFBA predicted an unaltered NGA maintenance energy of 1.5 mmol g−1 DCW h−1.
Keywords: Flux balance analysis; Dynamic flux balance analysis; Microalgae; Chlorella sp.; Maintenance energy; Kinetic model

SHARP: genome-scale identification of gene–protein–reaction associations in cyanobacteria by S. Krishnakumar; Dilip A. Durai; Pramod P. Wangikar; Ganesh A. Viswanathan (181-190).
Genome scale metabolic model provides an overview of an organism’s metabolic capability. These genome-specific metabolic reconstructions are based on identification of gene to protein to reaction (GPR) associations and, in turn, on homology with annotated genes from other organisms. Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes which have diverged appreciably from their nonphotosynthetic counterparts. They also show significant evolutionary divergence from plants, which are well studied for their photosynthetic apparatus. We argue that context-specific sequence and domain similarity can add to the repertoire of the GPR associations and significantly expand our view of the metabolic capability of cyanobacteria. We took an approach that combines the results of context-specific sequence-to-sequence similarity search with those of sequence-to-profile searches. We employ PSI-BLAST for the former, and CDD, Pfam, and COG for the latter. An optimization algorithm was devised to arrive at a weighting scheme to combine the different evidences with KEGG-annotated GPRs as training data. We present the algorithm in the form of software “Systematic, Homology-based Automated Re-annotation for Prokaryotes (SHARP).” We predicted 3,781 new GPR associations for the 10 prokaryotes considered of which eight are cyanobacteria species. These new GPR associations fall in several metabolic pathways and were used to annotate 7,718 gaps in the metabolic network. These new annotations led to discovery of several pathways that may be active and thereby providing new directions for metabolic engineering of these species for production of useful products. Metabolic model developed on such a reconstructed network is likely to give better phenotypic predictions.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; SHARP; Gene–protein–reaction (GPR) association; Genome scale; Metabolic network reconstruction; PSI-BLAST

Metabolic flux analysis of Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142 under mixotrophic conditions by Swathi Alagesan; Sandeep B. Gaudana; Avinash Sinha; Pramod P. Wangikar (191-198).
Cyanobacteria are a group of photosynthetic prokaryotes capable of utilizing solar energy to fix atmospheric carbon dioxide to biomass. Despite several “proof of principle” studies, low product yield is an impediment in commercialization of cyanobacteria-derived biofuels. Estimation of intracellular reaction rates by 13C metabolic flux analysis (13C-MFA) would be a step toward enhancing biofuel yield via metabolic engineering. We report 13C-MFA for Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142, a unicellular nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, known for enhanced hydrogen yield under mixotrophic conditions. Rates of reactions in the central carbon metabolism under nitrogen-fixing and -non-fixing conditions were estimated by monitoring the competitive incorporation of 12C and 13C from unlabeled CO2 and uniformly labeled glycerol, respectively, into terminal metabolites such as amino acids. The observed labeling patterns suggest mixotrophic growth under both the conditions, with a larger fraction of unlabeled carbon in nitrate-sufficient cultures asserting a greater contribution of carbon fixation by photosynthesis and an anaplerotic pathway. Indeed, flux analysis complements the higher growth observed under nitrate-sufficient conditions. On the other hand, the flux through the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway and tricarboxylic acid cycle was greater in nitrate-deficient conditions, possibly to supply the precursors and reducing equivalents needed for nitrogen fixation. In addition, an enhanced flux through fructose-6-phosphate phosphoketolase possibly suggests the organism’s preferred mode under nitrogen-fixing conditions. The 13C-MFA results complement the reported predictions by flux balance analysis and provide quantitative insight into the organism’s distinct metabolic features under nitrogen-fixing and -non-fixing conditions.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Carbon labeling experiments; Glycerol; Diazotroph; Central carbon metabolism