Sulfate-Driven Elemental Sparing Is Regulated at the Transcriptional and Posttranscriptional Levels in a Filamentous Cyanobacterium

Andrian Gutu, Richard M. Alvey, Sami Bashour, Daniel Zingg, David M. Kehoe

Research output: Journal ArticleArticlepeer-review


Sulfur is an essential nutrient that can exist at growth-limiting concentrations in freshwater environments. The freshwater cyanobacterium Fremyella diplosiphon (also known as Tolypothrix sp. PCC 7601) is capable of remodeling the composition of its light-harvesting antennae, or phycobilisomes, in response to changes in the sulfur levels in its environment. Depletion of sulfur causes these cells to cease the accumulation of two forms of a major phycobilisome protein called phycocyanin and initiate the production of a third form of phycocyanin, which possesses a minimal number of sulfur-containing amino acids. Since phycobilisomes make up approximately 50% of the total protein in these cells, this elemental sparing response has the potential to significantly influence the fitness of this species under low-sulfur conditions. This response is specific for sulfate and occurs over the physiological range of sulfate concentrations likely to be encountered by this organism in its natural environment. F. diplosiphon has two separate sulfur deprivation responses, with low sulfate levels activating the phycobilisome remodeling response and low sulfur levels activating the chlorosis or bleaching response. The phycobilisome remodeling response results from changes in RNA abundance that are regulated at both the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. The potential of this response, and the more general bleaching response of cyanobacteria, to provide sulfur-containing amino acids during periods of sulfur deprivation is examined.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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