Navigation Links
Researchers decode genetics of rare photosynthetic bacterium

TEMPE, Ariz. A bacterium that harvests far-red light by making a rare form of chlorophyll (chlorophyll d) has revealed its genetic secrets, according to a team of researchers who recently sequenced the bacterias genome.

The researchers, from Arizona State University and Washington University, St. Louis, report in the current online edition (Feb. 4) of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that they have sequenced the genome of the cyanobacterium, Acaryochloris marina, which through its production of chlorophyll d can absorb red edge, near infrared long wavelength light -- light that is invisible to the naked eye. Acaryochloris marina has a massive genome (8.3 million base pairs) and is among the largest of 55 cyanobacterial strains in the world. It is the first chlorophyll-d containing organism to be sequenced.

The advance has applications in plant research, said Jeffrey Touchman, an assistant professor ASUs School of Life Sciences and lead author of the paper, Niche adaptation and genome expansion in the chlorophyll d-producing cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina.

Chlorophyll d harvests light from a spectrum of light that few other organisms can, and that enables this organism to carve out its own special niche in the environment to pick up far-red light, Touchman explained. The agricultural implications could be significant. One could imagine the transfer of this biochemical mechanism to other plants where they could then use a wider range of the light spectrum and become sort of plant powerhouses, deriving increased energy by employing this new photosynthetic pigment.

There is a bioenergy link to this work, said Touchman, who is a member of ASUs Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis. It could be used for crops that are turned into fuels or to generate biomass.

Touchman worked with Robert Blankenship of Washington University on the sequencing project, which involved collaborators from Australia and Japan. Touchman also has an appointment with Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Scottsdale, Ariz., where he operates a high-throughput DNA sequencing facility. The work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Blankenship said with every gene of Acaryochloris marina now sequenced and annotated, the immediate goal is to find the enzyme that causes a chemical structure change in chlorophyll d, making it different from the more common chlorophyll a, and b, but also from about nine other forms of chlorophyll.

The synthesis of chlorophyll by an organism is complex, involving 17 different steps in all, Blankenship said. Someplace near the end of this process, an enzyme transforms a vinyl group to a formyl group to make chlorophyll d. This transformation of chemical forms is not known in any other chlorophyll molecules.

Touchman and Blankenship said they have some candidate genes they will test. They plan to insert these genes into an organism that only makes chlorophyll a. If the organism learns to synthesize chlorophyll d with one of the genes, the mystery of chlorophyll d synthesis will be solved, and then the excitement will begin.

The researchers said harvesting solar power through plants or other organisms that would be genetically altered with the chlorophyll d gene could make them solar power factories that generate and store solar energy. Consider a seven-foot tall corn plant genetically tailored with the chlorophyll d gene to be expressed at the very base of the stalk. While the rest of the plant synthesized chlorophyll a, absorbing short wave light, the base is absorbing red edge light in the 710 nanometer range.

Energy could be stored in the base without competing with any other part of the plant for photosynthesis, as the rest only makes chlorophyll a. Also, the altered corn using the chlorophyll d gene could become a super plant because of its enhanced ability to harness energy from the Sun.

That model is similar to how Acaryochloris marina actually operates in the South Pacific, specifically Australias Great Barrier Reef. Discovered just 11 years ago, the cyanobacterium lives in a symbiotic relationship with a sponge-like marine animal popularly called a sea squirt. The Acaryochloris marina lives beneath the sea squirt, which is a marine animal that lives attached to rocks just below the surface of the water. The cyanobacterium absorbs red edge light through the tissues of the sea squirt.

The genome, said Blankenship, is fat and happy. Acaryochloris marina lies down there using far red light that no one else can use. The organism has never been under very strong selection pressure to maintain a modest genome size. Its in kind of a sweet spot. Living in this environment is what allowed it to have such dramatic genome expansion.

Touchman said that once the gene that causes the late-step chemical transformation is found and inserted successfully into other plants or organisms, that it could potentially represent a five percent increase in available light for organisms to use.

We now have the complete genetic information of a novel organism that makes this type of pigment that no other organism does, he said. We dont yet know what every gene does, but this presents a fertile area for future studies. When we find the chlorophyll-d enzyme and then look into transferring it into other organisms, well be working to extend the range of potentially useful radiation from our Sun.


Contact: Skip Derra
Arizona State University

Related biology news :

1. Researchers decode genetics of rare photosynthetic bacteria
2. Stevens researchers provide oversight for three-year mariculture program in Egypt and Israel
3. Hot springs microbes hold key to dating sedimentary rocks, researchers say
4. Stem-cell transplantation improves muscles in MD animal model, UT Southwestern researchers report
5. Tiny genetic differences have huge consequences: McGill researchers
6. MNI researchers locate neurological basis of depression following sports concussion
7. Researchers reveal HIV peptides possible pathway into the cell
8. USC researchers identify mechanism that controls activation of stem cells during hair regeneration
9. Researchers put the bite on mosquitoes
10. Researchers find association between food insecurity and developmental risk in children
11. Iowa State researchers look for smaller, cheaper, 1-dose vaccines
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/10/2015)... 2015 About signature verification ... to identify and verify the identity of an ... the secure and accurate method of authentication and ... individual because each individual,s signature is highly unique. ... dynamic signature of an individual is compared and ...
(Date:11/9/2015)...  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), the leading ... into the automotive market with a comprehensive and dedicated ... consumer electronics human interface innovation. Synaptics, industry-leading touch controllers, ... automotive industry and will be implemented in numerous locations ... , Japan , and ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... 2015  SRI International has been awarded a contract ... services to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) PREVENT Cancer ... expertise, modern testing and support facilities, and analytical instrumentation ... toxicology studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention drugs. ... Cancer Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported pipeline to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... BRUSSELS , November 25, 2015 ... in cat and human plaque and pave the way for ... health problems in cats     ... the most commonly diagnosed health problems in cats, yet relatively ... until now. Two collaborative studies have been conducted by researchers ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris ... that its business and prospects remain fundamentally strong ... Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation to ... completion following review of the final interim efficacy ... 2 Primary Endpoint in men with heavily pretreated ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 25, 2015 ... Research Report is a professional and in-depth study ...      (Logo: ) , ... of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications and ... provided for the international markets including development trends, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce ... Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service ... , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: