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Global Transcriptional Responses of the Toxic Cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa, to Nitrogen Stress, Phosphorus Stress, and Growth on Organic Matter

Author(s): Harke, Matthew J.; Christopher J. Gobler


Name of Publisher: PLos ONE, Inc.

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: PLos ONE

Date of Publication: 2013

Reference Information: 8(7): e69834. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069834

Keywords: Microcystis aeruginosa; cyanobacteria; gene expression; nitrogen; phosphorus; HMWDOM; transcriptomic sequencening

Abstract: Whole transcriptome shotgun sequencing (RNA-seq) was used to assess the transcriptomic response of the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa during growth with low levels of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (low N), low levels of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (low P), and in the presence of high levels of high molecular weight dissolved organic matter (HMWDOM). Under low N, one third of the genome was differentially expressed, with significant increases in transcripts observed among genes within the nir operon, urea transport genes (urtBCDE), and amino acid transporters while significant decreases in transcripts were observed in genes related to photosynthesis. There was also a significant decrease in the transcription of the microcystin synthetase gene set under low N and a significant decrease in microcystin content per Microcystis cell demonstrating that N supply influences cellular toxicity. Under low P, 27% of the genome was differentially expressed. The Pho regulon was induced leading to large increases in transcript levels of the alkaline phosphatase phoX, the Pst transport system (pstABC), and the sphX gene, and transcripts of multiple sulfate transporter were also significantly more abundant. While the transcriptional response to growth on HMWDOM was smaller (5–22% of genes differentially expressed), transcripts of multiple genes specifically associated with the transport and degradation of organic compounds were significantly more abundant within HMWDOM treatments and thus may be recruited by Microcystis to utilize these substrates. Collectively, these findings provide a comprehensive understanding of the nutritional physiology of this toxic, bloom-forming cyanobacterium and the role of N in controlling microcystin synthesis.

Availability: at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069834

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