SUBPOPULATION DIFFERENTIATION ASSOCIATED WITH NONRIBOSOMAL PEPTIDE SYNTHETASE GENE CLUSTER DYNAMICS IN THE CYANOBACTERIUM PLANKTOTHRIX SPP.

Authors


  • Received 19 December 2008. Accepted 28 January 2010.

Abstract

The Plankthotrix Anagn. et Komárek population in the mesotrophic Lake Steinsfjorden has been intensively studied over several decades. This Planktothrix population produces a number of different classes of oligopetides. However, over the study period, only four main oligopeptide profiles (chemotypes) have been associated with the strains isolated from the lake. The chemotypes show distinct interactions with the environment, demonstrated by shifts in abundance along time series and vertical profiles. Here, we present genetic analysis of nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) gene regions in strains representing the four Planktothrix chemotypes in Lake Steinsfjorden. On the basis of phylogenetic analyses, we show that the NRPS genes for microcystin (mcy) and cyanopeptolin (oci) display the same clustering as do the chemotypes. Nucleotide diversity in mcy and oci was significantly higher between strains of different chemotypes than between strains of the same chemotype. Ka/Ks (nonsynonymous vs. synonymous mutations) values indicated positive selection in several polymorphic regions of the mcy and oci genes. Notably, incongruence between the phylogenetic trees for different gene segments and split decomposition analyses for segments of oci suggested horizontal gene transfer (HGT) events between strains showing different oligopeptide profiles. The oci HGT region encodes a module responsible for incorporating a variable amino acid in cyanopeptolin and is one of the regions suggested to be under positive selection. Taken together, our data suggest that there are four genetically distinct sympatric subpopulations—displayed as distinct chemotypes—in Lake Steinsfjorden. The diversification process of the chemotypes, and consequently the subpopulations, is driven by HGT and reinforced by positive selection of the corresponding NRPS gene regions.

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