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Keywords:

  • cell adhesion;
  • collagen;
  • immunofluorescence;
  • Trichodesmium ;
  • trichomes

The collagen protein family is diverse and its membership is continually expanding as new collagen-like molecules are identified. Identification of collagen in unicellular eukaryotes and prokaryotes has opened discussion on the function of these collagens and their role in the emergence of multicellularity. The previous identification of a collagen gene in Trichodesmium erythraeum raises the question of function of this structural protein in a prokaryote. In this study, we show that this gene is expressed during all phases of growth, indicating that it may be required for all phases of growth. Using immunofluorescence techniques, we demonstrate that the collagen-like protein is localized in a specific manner between adjacent cells along the trichome of T. erythraeum. Trichomes treated with the enzyme collagenase exhibited fragmentation, supporting our immunofluorescence localization data that this collagen-like protein is found between adjacent cells. Our data strongly suggest that the collagen-like protein found in T. erythraeum functions to maintain the structural integrity of the trichome through the adhesion of adjacent cells.