Co-ordinated expression of phycobiliprotein operons in the chromatically adapting cyanobacterium Calothrix PCC 7601: a role for RcaD and RcaG



In the cyanobacterium Calothrix sp. PCC 7601 the cpc2 operon encoding phycocyanin 2 (PC2) is expressed if red radiations are available. RcaD was previously identified in extracts from red-light-grown cells as an alkaline phosphatase-sensitive protein that binds upstream of the transcription start point (TSP) of the cpc2 operon. In this work, RcaD was purified, and the corresponding gene cloned with a PCR probe obtained using degenerated primers based on RcaD peptide sequences (accession no. AJ319541). Purified RcaD binds to the cpc2 promoter region and also to those of the constitutive cpc1 and apc1 operons that encode phycocyanin 1 and allophycocyanin. Escherichia coli-overexpressed RcaD can bind to the cpc2 promoter region. The rcaD gene is upstream of an open reading frame (ORF) termed rcaG. Co-transcription of both genes was demonstrated by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR experiments, and found to be independent of the light wavelengths. A single TSP was mapped. Sequence features of RcaD and RcaG led us to propose a functional relationship between these two proteins. A rcaD mutant generated by allelic exchange exhibited altered expression of the cpc2, cpeBA, apc1 and cpc1 operons upon green to red-light shifts. RcaD seems to be a co-activator co-ordinating the transcription of the phycobiliprotein operons upon changes in light spectral quality.