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Photosynthesizing bacteria with a day-night cycle contain rare chromosome

NA sequencing revealed the linear chromosome to be 430 kilobases long and contain a cluster of nine genes that code for other enzymes involved in pyruvate metabolism. These allow Cyanothece 51142 to make ethanol, hydrogen, acetate, and other compounds. Oddly, the linear chromosome was missing some features that linear chromosomes in complex organisms display. Without obvious protective caps called telomeres, for example, Cyanothece must use an unidentified way to preserve the integrity of its linear chromosomes when it reproduces.

In addition to the 2,700-plus real genes, the DNA sequence contained more than 2,500 would-be genes. These had architectural features common to genes but didn't look like recognized genes from other organisms. The team found about 500 of these that produced proteins, so the researchers re-classified these genes as functioning. Lastly, the scientists also found 38 proteins out of another 12,000 sequences that were gene longshots.

"Using proteomics, we always suspected we'd be able to detect genes not called out in the genome, but it was surprising how many hypothetical genes actually produced proteins," said Jacobs.

For the next round, additional DOE resources will enable the sequencing and analysis of the genomes of six other Cyanothece strains in a quest to find the best one to produce hydrogen.

"The goal is to find the hydrogen-producing workhorse of these seven," Pakrasi said. "Work is ongoing, and I expect in a year or so we will learn a lot more."


Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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