Polyphyletic photosynthetic reaction centre genes in oligotrophic marine Gammaproteobacteria


*E-mail steve.giovannoni@oregonstate.edu; Tel. (+1) 541 737 1835; Fax (+1) 541 737 0496.


Ecological studies indicate that aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria (AAP) that use bacteriochlorophyll to support phototrophic electron transport are widely distributed in the oceans. All cultivated marine AAP are alpha-3 and alpha-4 Proteobacteria, but metagenomic evidence indicates that uncultured AAP Gammaproteobacteria are important members of ocean surface microbial communities. Here we report the description of obligately oligotrophic, marine Gammaproteobacteria that have genes for aerobic anoxygenic photosynthesis. Three strains belonging to the OM60 clade were isolated in autoclaved seawater media. Polymerase chain reaction assays for the pufM gene show that these strains contain photosynthetic reaction centre genes. DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis indicate that the pufM genes are polyphyletic, suggesting multiple instances of lateral gene transfer. Peptide sequences from six photosynthesis genes (pufL, pufM, pufC, pufB, pufA and puhA) were detected by proteomic analyses of strain HTCC2080 cells grown aerobically in seawater. They closely match predicted peptides from an environmental seawater bacterial artificial chromosome clone of gammaproteobacterial origin, thus identifying the OM60 clade as a significant source of gammaproteobacterial AAP genes in marine systems. The cell yield and rate of growth of HTCC2080 in autoclaved, aerobic seawater increased in the light. These findings identify the OM60 clade as a source of Gammaproteobacteria AAP genes in coastal oceans, and demonstrate that aerobic, anoxygenic photosynthetic metabolism can enhance the productivity of marine oligotrophic bacteria that also grow heterotrophically in darkness.