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microcoleus nifH: Horizontal gene transfer of a nitrogen fixation gene cluster in Microcoleus chthonoplastes
Bolhuis H., Stal L.: Horizontal gene transfer of a nitrogen fixation gene cluster in Microcoleus chthonoplastes.Netherlands Institute of Ecology; Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Netherlands. Metadata available at

Availability: Unrestricted for academic use
The data are freely available for research and education purposes. Usage acknowledgement is usually expected

Genomic and experimental data showing that the nifH gene cluster in Microcoleus chthonoplastes is aquired via horizontal gene transfer. more

The filamentous, non-heterocystous cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes is a cosmopolitan organism, known to build microbial mats in a variety of different environments. Although most of these cyanobacterial mats are known for their capacity to fix dinitrogen, M. chthonoplastes has not been assigned as a diazotrophic organism. None of the strains that were correctly identified as M. chthonoplastes has been shown to fix dinitrogen and it has repeatedly been reported that these organisms lacked the cyanobacterial nifH, the structural gene for dinitrogenase reductase. Here we show that a complete nif-gene cluster is present in the genome of M. chthonoplastes PCC 7420 and that the three structural nitrogenase genes, nifHDK, are present in a collection of axenic strains of M. chthonoplastes from distant locations. Phylogenetic analysis of nifHDK revealed that they cluster with the Deltaproteobacteria and that they are closely related to Desulfovibrio. The nif operon is flanked by typical cyanobacterial genes suggesting that it is an integral part of the M. chthonoplastes genome. Here we provide evidence that the nif operon of M. chthonoplastes is acquired through horizontal gene transfer. Moreover, the presence of the same nif-cluster in M. chthonoplastes isolates derived from various sites around the world suggests that this horizontal gene transfer event must have occurred early in the evolution of M. chthonoplastes. We have been unable to express nitrogenase in cultures of M. chthonoplastes, but we show that these genes were expressed under natural conditions in the field.

Biology > Organic (& bio-) chemistry
Marine, Brackish water, Terrestrial, Cyanobacteria, Horizontal gene transfer, Microbial mat, Micronucleus, Nitrogen fixation, ANE, Netherlands, Schiermonnikoog, Microcoleus chtonoplastes (Mertens) Zanardini

Geographical coverage
ANE, Netherlands, Schiermonnikoog [Marine Regions]

Taxonomic coverage
Microcoleus chtonoplastes (Mertens) Zanardini [WoRMS]

Dataset status: Completed
Data type: Data
Data origin: Research: experiment
Metadatarecord created: 2009-10-21
Information last updated: 2009-10-23
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