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Tai, V, Burton RS, Palenik B.  2011.  Temporal and spatial distributions of marine Synechococcus in the Southern California Bight assessed by hybridization to bead-arrays. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 426:133-U164.   10.3354/meps09030   AbstractWebsite

Marine Synechococcus diversity has been previously described using multi-locus gene sequence phylogenies and the identification of distinct clades. Synechococcus from Clades I, II, III, and IV and from sub-clades within Clades I and IV were enumerated from environmental samples by developing a hybridization assay to liquid bead-arrays (Luminex). Oligonucleotide probes targeting a gene encoding a subunit of RNA polymerase (rpoC1) were used simultaneously in multiplexed assays to track Synechococcus diversity from a Pacific Ocean coastal monitoring site and along a coastal to open-ocean transect in the Southern California Bight. The Luminex assay demonstrated that Synechococcus from Clades I and IV were the dominant types at the coastal site throughout the year. Synechococcus from Clades II and III were not detected except during the late summer or early winter. Within the dominant Clades I and IV, rpoC1-defined sub-clades of Synechococcus showed distinct spatial distributions along the coastal to open-ocean transect, coinciding with changes in the nitricline, thermocline, and fluorescence (chlorophyll) maximum depths. In coastal waters, Synechococcus targeted by 2 sub-clade IV probes were dominant at the surface, whereas 2 sub-clade I probes and a third sub-clade IV probe had increased signals in deeper water near the fluorescence maximum. In mesotrophic waters, this third sub-clade IV probe dominated at the fluorescence maximum (depth of 50 to 70 m), whereas all other sub-clade probes were below detection limits. The differing distributions of sub-clades within the dominant Synechococcus clades indicate that the sub-clades likely have adapted to distinct ecological niches found within the Southern California Bight.

Tai, V, Paulsen IT, Phillippy K, Johnson AD, Palenik B.  2009.  Whole-genome microarray analyses of Synechococcus-Vibrio interactions. Environmental Microbiology. 11:2698-2709.   10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.01997.x   AbstractWebsite

P>Microbes live in diverse communities yet their physiologies are typically studied in axenic culture. To begin to address this dichotomy, whole-genome microarray analyses were used and revealed that several major metabolic pathways were affected in Synechococcus sp. WH8102, a model phototroph, when grown with Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a model heterotroph. In co-cultures with V. parahaemolyticus, although phosphate was not depleted, Synechococcus sp. WH8102 may have experienced phosphate stress since the expression of phosphate acquisition genes increased and alkaline phosphatase activity was higher than in monocultures. Expression of cell wall synthesis genes and the components of a zinc transporter were also upregulated. In contrast, a ferric uptake regulation (Fur) family gene was downregulated as were genes that encode proteins rich in iron or involved in detoxifying oxygen radicals. Nitrogen use may also have been affected in co-cultures as the gene expression changes share similarities with ammonia-grown Synechococcus. This study demonstrates the multiple impacts that interspecific microbial interactions can have on the physiology of a major primary producer and the importance of investigating microbial physiology from a community perspective.

Tai, V, Poon AFY, Paulsen IT, Palenik B.  2011.  Selection in coastal Synechococcus (cyanobacteria) populations evaluated from environmental metagenomes. Plos One. 6:e24249. AbstractWebsite

Environmental metagenomics provides snippets of genomic sequences from all organisms in an environmental sample and are an unprecedented resource of information for investigating microbial population genetics. Current analytical methods, however, are poorly equipped to handle metagenomic data, particularly of short, unlinked sequences. A custom analytical pipeline was developed to calculate dN/dS ratios, a common metric to evaluate the role of selection in the evolution of a gene, from environmental metagenomes sequenced using 454 technology of flow-sorted populations of marine Synechococcus, the dominant cyanobacteria in coastal environments. The large majority of genes (98%) have evolved under purifying selection (dN/dS<1). The metagenome sequence coverage of the reference genomes was not uniform and genes that were highly represented in the environment (i.e. high read coverage) tended to be more evolutionarily conserved. Of the genes that may have evolved under positive selection (dN/dS>1), 77 out of 83 (93%) were hypothetical. Notable among annotated genes, ribosomal protein L35 appears to be under positive selection in one Synechococcus population. Other annotated genes, in particular a possible porin, a large-conductance mechanosensitive channel, an ATP binding component of an ABC transporter, and a homologue of a pilus retraction protein had regions of the gene with elevated dN/dS. With the increasing use of next-generation sequencing in metagenomic investigations of microbial diversity and ecology, analytical methods need to accommodate the peculiarities of these data streams. By developing a means to analyze population diversity data from these environmental metagenomes, we have provided the first insight into the role of selection in the evolution of Synechococcus, a globally significant primary producer.

Tai, V, Palenik B.  2009.  Temporal variation of Synechococcus clades at a coastal Pacific Ocean monitoring site. Isme Journal. 3:903-915.   10.1038/ismej.2009.35   AbstractWebsite

Marine cyanobacteria from the genus Synechococcus are found throughout the world's oceans and are important contributors to global primary productivity and carbon cycling. Cultured isolates and environmental DNA clone libraries of Synechococcus have demonstrated the diversity of these microbes. However, the natural distribution of this diversity through space and time and the ecological significance of their distribution are still poorly understood. To understand the seasonal dynamics of Synechococcus diversity, we have developed a quantitative PCR strategy using the gene encoding as a subunit of DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (rpoC1) and applied it to a 3-year time series of surface samples from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier (La Jolla, CA, USA), a coastal site in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Synechococcus from clades I and IV were dominant throughout the time series and correlated with total Synechococcus abundance. The relative abundance of these two dominant clades showed evidence of a seasonal cycle. Synechococcus from clade IV were typically more abundant, but those from clade I dominated during periods just before the annual spring bloom of Synechococcus. Synechococcus from clades II and III were absent during spring and early summer, but appeared at low abundances in late summer and winter possibly due to changes in circulation in the Southern California Bight. As the first long-term time series describing Synechococcus population diversity, these temporal dynamics were used to interpret the genetic/genomic diversity observed in the environment and the potential factors regulating their distribution. The ISME Journal (2009) 3, 903-915; doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.35; published online 9 April 2009

Taton, A, Unglaub F, Wright NE, Zeng WY, Paz-Yepes J, Brahamsha B, Palenik B, Peterson TC, Haerizadeh F, Golden SS, Golden JW.  2014.  Broad-host-range vector system for synthetic biology and biotechnology in cyanobacteria. Nucleic Acids Research. 42   10.1093/nar/gku673   AbstractWebsite

Inspired by the developments of synthetic biology and the need for improved genetic tools to exploit cyanobacteria for the production of renewable bio-products, we developed a versatile platform for the construction of broad-host-range vector systems. This platform includes the following features: (i) an efficient assembly strategy in which modules released from 3 to 4 donor plasmids or produced by polymerase chain reaction are assembled by isothermal assembly guided by short GC-rich overlap sequences. (ii) A growing library of molecular devices categorized in three major groups: (a) replication and chromosomal integration; (b) antibiotic resistance; (c) functional modules. These modules can be assembled in different combinations to construct a variety of autonomously replicating plasmids and suicide plasmids for gene knockout and knockin. (iii) A web service, the CYANO-VECTOR assembly portal, which was built to organize the various modules, facilitate the in silico construction of plasmids, and encourage the use of this system. This work also resulted in the construction of an improved broad-host-range replicon derived from RSF1010, which replicates in several phylogenetically distinct strains including a new experimental model strain Synechocystis sp. WHSyn, and the characterization of nine antibiotic cassettes, four reporter genes, four promoters, and a ribozyme-based insulator in several diverse cyanobacterial strains.

Tetu, SG, Brahamsha B, Johnson DA, Tai V, Phillippy K, Palenik B, Paulsen IT.  2009.  Microarray analysis of phosphate regulation in the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp WH8102. ISME Journal. 3:835-849.   10.1038/ismej.2009.31   AbstractWebsite

Primary productivity of open ocean environments, such as those inhabited by marine picocyanobacteria, is often limited by low inorganic phosphate (P). To observe how these organisms cope with P starvation, we constructed a full genome microarray for Synechococcus sp. WH8102 and compared differences in gene expression under P-replete and P-limited growth conditions, including both early P stress, during extracellular alkaline phosphatase induction, and late P stress. A total of 36 genes showed significant upregulation (>log(2) fold) whereas 23 genes were highly downregulated at the early time point; however, these changes in expression were maintained during late P stress for only 5 of the upregulated genes. Knockout mutants were constructed for genes SYNW0947 and SYNW0948, comprising a two-component regulator hypothesized to have a key function in regulating P metabolism. A high degree of overlap in the sets of genes affected by P stress conditions and in the knockout mutants supports this hypothesis; however, there is some indication that other regulators may be involved in this response in Synechococcus sp. WH8102. Consistent with what has been observed in many other cyanobacteria, the Pho regulon of this strain is comprised largely of genes for alkaline phosphatases, P transport or P metabolism. Interestingly, however, the exact composition and arrangement of the Pho regulon appears highly variable in marine cyanobacteria. The ISME Journal (2009) 3, 835-849; doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.31; published online 2 April 2009

Tetu, SG, Johnson DA, Varkey DR, Phillippy K, Stuart RK, Dupont C, Hassan KA, Palenik B, Paulsen IT.  2013.  Impact of DNA damaging agents on genome-wide transcriptional profiles in two marine Synechococcus species. Frontiers in Microbiology. 4   10.3389/fmicb.2013.00232   AbstractWebsite

Marine microorganisms, particularly those residing in coastal areas, may come in contact with any number of chemicals of environmental or xenobiotic origin. The sensitivity and response of marine cyanobacteria to such chemicals is, at present, poorly understood. We have looked at the transcriptional response of well characterised Synechococcus open ocean (WH8102) and coastal (CC9311) isolates to two DNA damaging agents, mitomycin C and ethidium bromide, using whole-genome expression microarrays. The coastal strain showed differential regulation of a larger proportion of its genome following √ęshock√≠ treatment with each agent. Many of the orthologous genes in these strains, including those encoding sensor kinases, showed different transcriptional responses, with the CC9311 genes more likely to show significant changes in both treatments. While the overall response of each strain was considerably different, there were distinct transcriptional responses common to both strains observed for each DNA damaging agent, linked to the mode of action of each chemical. In both CC9311 and WH8102 there was evidence of SOS response induction under mitomycin C treatment, with genes recA, lexA and umuC significantly upregulated in this experiment but not under ethidium bromide treatment. Conversely, ethidium bromide treatment tended to result in upregulation of the DNA-directed RNA polymerase genes, not observed following mitomycin C treatment. Interestingly, a large number of genes residing on putative genomic island regions of each genome also showed significant upregulation under one or both chemical treatments.

Thomas, EV, Phillippy KH, Brahamsha B, Haaland DM, Timlin JA, Elbourne LDH, Palenik B, Paulsen IT.  2009.  Statistical analysis of microarray data with replicated spots: a case study with Synechococcus WH8102. Comparative and Functional Genomics.   10.1155/2009/950171   AbstractWebsite

Until recently microarray experiments often involved relatively few arrays with only a single representation of each gene on each array. A complete genome microarray with multiple spots per gene (spread out spatially across the array) was developed in order to compare the gene expression of a marine cyanobacterium and a knockout mutant strain in a defined artificial seawater medium. Statistical methods were developed for analysis in the special situation of this case study where there is gene replication within an array and where relatively few arrays are used, which can be the case with current array technology. Due in part to the replication within an array, it was possible to detect very small changes in the levels of expression between the wild type and mutant strains. One interesting biological outcome of this experiment is the indication of the extent to which the phosphorus regulatory system of this cyanobacterium affects the expression of multiple genes beyond those strictly involved in phosphorus acquisition. Copyright (C) 2009 E. V. Thomas et al.

Toledo, G, Palenik B.  1997.  Synechococcus diversity in the California Current as seen by RNA polymerase (rpoC1) gene sequences of isolated strains. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 63:4298-4303. AbstractWebsite

Because they are ubiquitous in a range of aquatic environments and culture methods are relatively advanced, cyanobacteria may be useful models for understanding the extent of evolutionary adaptation of prokaryotes in general to environmental gradients. The roles of environmental variables such as light and nutrients in influencing cyanobacterial genetic diversity are still poorly characterized, however, In this study, a total of 15 Synechococcus strains were isolated from the oligotrophic edge of the California Current from two depths (5 and 95 m) with large differences in fight intensity, light quality, and nutrient concentrations. RNA polymerase gene (rpoC1) fragment sequences of the strains revealed two major genetic lineages, distinct from other marine or freshwater cyanobacterial isolates or groups seen in shotgun-cloned sequences from the oligotrophic Atlantic Ocean. The California Current low-phycourobilin (CCLPUB) group represented by six isolates in a single lineage was less diverse than the California Current high-phycourobilin (CCHPUB) group with nine isolates in three relatively divergent lineages. The former,vas found to be the closest known genetic group to Prochlorococcus spp., a chlorophyll b-containing cyanobacterial group, Having an isolate from this group will be valuable for looking at the molecular changes necessary for the transition from the use of phycobiliproteins to chlorophyll b as light-harvesting pigments. Both of the CCHPUB and CCLPUB groups included strains obtained from surface (5 m) and deep (95 m) samples, Thus, contrary to expectations, there was no clear correlation between sampling depth and isolation of genetic groups, despite the large environmental gradients present, To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration with isolates that genetically divergent Synechococcus groups coexist in the same seawater sample.

Toledo, G, Palenik B, Brahamsha B.  1999.  Swimming marine Synechococcus strains with widely different photosynthetic pigment ratios form a monophyletic group. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 65:5247-5251. AbstractWebsite

Unicellular marine cyanobacteria are ubiquitous in both coastal and oligotrophic regimes. The contribution of these organisms to primary production and nutrient cycling is substantial on a global scale. Natural populations of marine Synechococcus strains include multiple genetic lineages, but the link, if any, between unique phenotypic traits and specific genetic groups is still not understood. We studied the genetic diversity (as determined by the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase rpoC1 gene sequence) of a set of marine Synechococcus isolates that are able to swim, Our results show that these isolates form a monophyletic group. This finding represents the first example of correspondence between a physiological trait and a phylogenetic group in marine Synechococcus. In contrast, the phycourobilin (PUB)/phycoerythrobilin (PEB) pigment ratios of members of the motile clade varied considerably. An isolate obtained from the California Current (strain CC9703) displayed a pigment signature identical to that of nonmotile strain WH7803, which is considered a model for low-PUB/PEB-ratio strains, whereas several motile strains had higher PUB/PEB ratios than strain WH8103, which is considered a model for high-PUB/PEB-ratio strains. These findings indicate that the PUB/FEB pigment ratio is not a useful characteristic for defining phylogenetic groups of marine Synechococcus strains.

Toledo, G, Palenik B.  2003.  A Synechococcus serotype is found preferentially in surface marine waters. Limnology and Oceanography. 48:1744-1755. AbstractWebsite

In marine ecosystems, gradients of light, temperature, and nutrients occur horizontally (coastal to offshore) and vertically. The extent to which microorganisms acclimate or speciate in response to these gradients is under active investigation. Strain isolation data (e.g., site or depth), environmental DNA clone libraries, and preliminary physiology experiments have indicated that marine Synechococcus strain CC9605 might be adapted to the surface oligotrophic ocean. In the present work, we used an immunofluorescent approach to detect the CC9605 serotype in the California Current during September 1998. At two offshore stations, samples were collected along vertical profiles. The relative abundance of the CC9605 serotype was significantly higher in shallow depths within the mixed layer than in deeper depths at the two stations, with maximum values (+/- standard deviation) of 10.3% +/- 6.4 and 28.7% +/- 9.5. Surface samples along an offshore-inshore transect showed higher abundance in the most oligotrophic site (8% +/- 3), compared with almost 1% inshore, but one coastal site also had high relative abundance of the CC9605 serotype (7% +/- 0.5). These data indicate that Synechococcus strains are not uniformly distributed and that some strains, such as CC9605, are more abundant in the mixed layer of the euphotic zone than below the mixed layer.