A carboxysomal carbon-concentrating mechanism in the cyanelles of the ‘coelacanth’ of the algal world, Cyanophora paradoxa?


*e-mail: sara.fathi-nejad@univie.ac.at


Cyanelles are the peculiar plastids of glaucocystophyte algae that retained a peptidoglycan wall from the ancestral cyanobacterial endosymbiont. All cyanobacteria and most algae possess an inorganic carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM) that involves a microcompartment – carboxysomes in prokaryotes and pyrenoids in eukaryotes – harboring the bulk of cellular (plastidic) Rubisco. In the case of the living fossil, Cyanophora paradoxa, the existence of a CCM was a matter of debate. Microarray data revealing 142 CO2-responsive genes (induced or repressed through a shift from high to low CO2 conditions), gas exchange measurements and measurements of photosynthetic affinity provided strong support for a CCM. We favor a recent hypothesis that glaucocystophyte cyanelles as the closest cousins to cyanobacteria among plastids contain ‘eukaryotic carboxysomes’: bicarbonate enrichment within cyanelles should be considerably higher than in chloroplasts with their pyrenoid-based CCM. Thus, the stress-bearing function of the peptidoglycan layer, the other unique heritage, would be indispensable. An isolation method for cyanelle ‘carboxysomes’ was developed and the protein components other than Rubisco analyzed by MS. Rubisco activase was identified and corroborated by western blotting. The well-established cyanelle in vitro import system allows to use them as ‘honorary cyanobacteria’: assembly processes of supramolecular structures as phycobilisomes and carboxysomes thus can be studied after import of nucleus-encoded precursor proteins and subsequent fractionation. Even minor components can easily be tracked and a surprisingly dynamic view is obtained. Labeled pre-activase was imported into isolated cyanelles and 30% of the mature protein was found to be incorporated into the carboxysome fraction. A final decision between carboxysome or pyrenoid must await the identification of cyanelle carbonic anhydrase and, especially, the demonstration of shell proteins.