A polyyne toxin produced by an antagonistic bacterium blinds and lyses a Chlamydomonad alga

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Algae are key contributors to global carbon fixation and form the basis of many food webs. In nature, their growth is often supported or suppressed by microorganisms. The bacterium Pseudomonas protegens Pf-5 arrests the growth of the green unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, deflagellates the alga by the cyclic lipopeptide orfamide A, and alters its morphology [P. Aiyar et al., Nat. Commun. 8, 1756 (2017)]. Using a combination of Raman microspectroscopy, genome mining, and mutational analysis, we discovered a polyyne toxin, protegencin, which is secreted by P. protegens, penetrates the algal cells, and causes destruction of the carotenoids of their primitive visual system, the eyespot. Together with secreted orfamide A, protegencin thus prevents the phototactic behavior of C. reinhardtii. A mutant of P. protegens deficient in protegencin production does not affect growth or eyespot carotenoids of C. reinhardtii. Protegencin acts in a direct and destructive way by lysing and killing the algal cells. The toxic effect of protegencin is also observed in an eyeless mutant and with the colony-forming Chlorophyte alga Gonium pectorale. These data reveal a two-pronged molecular strategy involving a cyclic lipopeptide and a conjugated tetrayne used by bacteria to attack select Chlamydomonad algae. In conjunction with the bloom-forming activity of several chlorophytes and the presence of the protegencin gene cluster in over 50 different Pseudomonas genomes [A. J. Mullins et al., bioRxiv [Preprint] (2021). https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.05.433886v1 (Accessed 17 April 2021)], these data are highly relevant to ecological interactions between Chlorophyte algae and Pseudomonadales bacteria.



polyyne toxin, antagonistic bacterium, Chlamydomonad alga, algal cells


Hotter, Vivien, David Zopf, Hak Joong Kim, Anja Silge, Michael Schmitt, Prasad Aiyar, Johanna Fleck et al. "A polyyne toxin produced by an antagonistic bacterium blinds and lyses a Chlamydomonad alga." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, no. 33 (2021): e2107695118.
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