Global carbon/nitrogen control by PII signal transduction in cyanobacteria: from signals to targets


  • Karl Forchhammer

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut für Mikrobiologie und Molekularbiologie, Interdisziplinäres Forschungszentrum (IFZ) der Universität Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, Giessen 35392, Germany
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*Tel.: +49-641-9935545; fax: +49-641-99335549, E-mail address:


PII signal transduction plays a pervasive role in microbial nitrogen control. Different phylogenetic lineages have developed various signal transduction schemes around the highly conserved core of the signalling system, which consists of the PII proteins. Among all various bacterial PII signalling systems, the one in cyanobacteria is so far unique: in unicellular strains, the mode of covalent modification is by serine phosphorylation and the interpretation of the cellular nitrogen status occurs by measuring the 2-oxoglutarate levels. Recent advances have been the identification of the phospho-PII phosphatase, the resolution of the crystal structure of PII proteins from Synechococcus and Synechocystis strains and the identification of novel functions of PII regulation in cyanobacteria, which highlight the central role of PII signalling for the acclimation to changing carbon–nitrogen regimes.