[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nitrogen-fixing heterocysts are arranged in a periodic pattern on filaments of the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 under conditions of limiting combined nitrogen. Patterning requires two inhibitors of heterocyst differentiation, PatS and HetN, which work at different stages of differentiation by laterally suppressing levels of an activator of differentiation, HetR, in cells adjacent to source cells. Here we show that the RGSGR sequence in the 287-amino-acid HetN protein, which is shared by PatS, is critical for patterning. Conservative substitutions in any of the five amino acids lowered the extent to which HetN inhibited differentiation when overproduced and altered the pattern of heterocysts in filaments with an otherwise wild-type genetic background. Conversely, substitution of amino acids comprising the putative catalytic triad of this predicted reductase had no effect on inhibition or patterning. Deletion of putative domains of HetN suggested that the RGSGR motif is the primary component of HetN required for both its inhibitory and patterning activity, and that localization to the cell envelope is not required for patterning of heterocysts. The intercellular signalling proteins PatS and HetN use the same amino acid motif to regulate different stages of heterocyst patterning.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 differentiates nitrogen-fixing heterocysts arranged in a periodic pattern when deprived of a fixed source of nitrogen. In a genetic screen for mutations that prevent diazotrophic growth, open reading frame all1758, which encodes a putative serine/threonine phosphatase, was identified. Mutation of all1758 resulted in a number of seemingly disparate phenotypes that included a delay in the morphological differentiation of heterocysts, reduced cell size, and lethality under certain conditions. The mutant was incapable of fixing nitrogen under either oxic or anoxic conditions, and lacked the minor heterocyst-specific glycolipid. Pattern formation, as indicated by the timing and pattern of expression from the promoters of hetR and patS fused transcriptionally to the gene for green fluorescent protein (GFP), was unaffected by mutation of all1758, suggesting that its role in the formation of heterocysts is limited to morphological differentiation. Transcription of all1758 was constitutive with respect to both cell type and conditions of growth, but required a functional copy of all1758. The reduced cell size of the all1758 mutant and the location of all1758 between the cell division genes ftsX and ftsY may be indicative of a role for all1758 in cell division. Taken together, these results suggest that the protein encoded by all1758 may represent a link between cell growth, division and regulation of the morphological differentiation of heterocysts.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: HetR, master regulator of heterocyst differentiation in the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, stimulates heterocyst differentiation via transcriptional autoregulation and is negatively regulated by PatS and HetN, both of which contain the active pentapeptide RGSGR. However, the direct targets of PatS and HetN remain uncertain. Here, we report experimental evidence for direct binding between HetR and the C-terminal RGSGR pentapeptide, PatS-5. Strains with a hetR allele coding for conservative substitutions at residues 250-256 had altered patterns of heterocysts and, in some cases, reduced sensitivity to PatS-5. Cysteine scanning mutagenesis coupled with electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy showed quenching of spin label motion at HetR amino acid 252 upon titration with PatS-5, indicating direct binding of PatS-5 to HetR. Gel shift assays indicated that PatS-5 disrupted binding of HetR to a 29 base pair inverted-repeat-containing DNA sequence upstream from hetP. Double electron-electron resonance EPR experiments confirmed that HetR existed as a dimer in solution and indicated that PatS-5 bound to HetR without disrupting the dimer form of HetR. Isothermal titration calorimetry experiments corroborated direct binding of PatS-5 to HetR with a K(d) of 227 nM and a 1:1 stoichiometry. Taken together, these results indicated that PatS-5 disrupted HetR binding to DNA through a direct HetR/PatS interaction. PatS-5 appeared to either bind in the vicinity of HetR amino acid L252 or, alternately, to bind in a remote site that leads to constrained motion of this amino acid via an allosteric effect or change in tertiary structure.