Mutation of the murC and murB Genes Impairs Heterocyst Differentiation in Anabaena sp. Strain PCC 7120

Patrick Videau, Orion S. Rivers, Blake Ushijima, Reid T. Oshiro, Min Joo Kim, Benjamin Philmus, Loralyn M. Cozy

Research output: Journal ArticleArticlepeer-review


To stabilize cellular integrity in the face of environmental perturbations, most bacteria, including cyanobacteria, synthesize and maintain a strong, flexible, three-dimensional peptidoglycan lattice. Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 is a filamentous cyanobacterium capable of differentiating morphologically distinct nitrogen-fixing heterocyst cells in a periodic pattern. While heterocyst development has been shown to require proper peptidoglycan remodeling, the role of peptidoglycan synthesis has remained unclear. Here we report the identification of two peptidoglycan synthesis genes, murC (alr5065) and murB (alr5066), as required for heterocyst development. The murC and murB genes are predicted to encode a UDP-N-acetylmuramate:l-alanine ligase and a UDP-N-acetylenolpyruvoylglucosamine reductase, respectively, and we confirm enzymatic function through complementation of Escherichia coli strains deficient for these enzymes. Cells depleted of either murC or murB expression failed to differentiate heterocysts under normally inducing conditions and displayed decreased filament integrity. To identify the stage(s) of development affected by murC or murB depletion, the spatial distribution of expression of the patterning marker gene, patS, was examined. Whereas murB depletion did not affect the pattern of patS expression, murC depletion led to aberrant expression of patS in all cells of the filament. Finally, expression of gfp controlled by the region of DNA immediately upstream of murC was enriched in differentiating cells and was repressed by the transcription factor NtcA. Collectively, the data in this work provide evidence for a direct link between peptidoglycan synthesis and the maintenance of a biological pattern in a multicellular organism.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
StatePublished - Apr 15 2016


  • Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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