Indirect Interspecies Regulation: Transcriptional and Physiological Responses of a Cyanobacterium to Heterotrophic Partnership


The mechanisms by which microbes interact in communities remain poorly understood. Here, we interrogated specific interactions between photoautotrophic and heterotrophic members of a model consortium to infer mechanisms that mediate metabolic coupling and acclimation to partnership. This binary consortium was composed of a cyanobacterium, Thermosynechococcus elongatus BP-1, which supported growth of an obligate aerobic heterotroph, Meiothermus ruber strain A, by providing organic carbon, O2, and reduced nitrogen. Species-resolved transcriptomic analyses were used in combination with growth and photosynthesis kinetics to infer interactions and the environmental context under which they occur. We found that the efficiency of biomass production and resistance to stress induced by high levels of dissolved O2 increased, beyond axenic performance, as a result of heterotrophic partnership. Coordinated transcriptional responses transcending both species were observed and used to infer specific interactions resulting from the synthesis and exchange of resources. The cyanobacterium responded to heterotrophic partnership by altering expression of core genes involved with photosynthesis, carbon uptake/fixation, vitamin synthesis, and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). IMPORTANCE This study elucidates how a cyanobacterial primary producer acclimates to heterotrophic partnership by modulating the expression levels of key metabolic genes. Heterotrophic bacteria can indirectly regulate the physiology of the photoautotrophic primary producers, resulting in physiological changes identified here, such as increased intracellular ROS. Some of the interactions inferred from this model system represent putative principles of metabolic coupling in phototrophic-heterotrophic partnerships.




Bernstein, Hans C, Ryan S McClure, Vera Thiel, Natalie C Sadler, Young-Mo Kim, William B Chrisler, Eric A Hill, Donald A Bryant, Margaret F Romine, Janet K Jansson, Jim K Fredrickson, and Alexander S Beliaev. "Indirect Interspecies Regulation: Transcriptional and Physiological Responses of a Cyanobacterium to Heterotrophic Partnership." mSystems 2, no. 2 (March 2017). DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00181-16.
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