Mutagenesis of hetR Reveals Amino Acids Necessary for HetR Function in the Heterocystous Cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. Strain PCC 7120

Risser, Douglas D.
Callahan, Sean M.
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American Society for Microbiology
HetR is the master regulator of heterocyst differentiation in the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120. Genetic selection was used to identify 33 amino acid substitutions in HetR that reduced the proportion of cells undergoing heterocyst differentiation to less than 2%. Conservative substitutions in the wild-type HetR protein revealed three mutations that dramatically reduced the amount of heterocyst differentiation when the mutant allele was present in place of the wild-type allele on a replicating plasmid in a mutant lacking hetR on the chromosome. An H69Y substitution resulted in heterocyst formation among less than 0.1% of cells, and D17E and G36A substitutions resulted in a Het- phenotype, compared to heterocyst formation among approximately 25% of cells with the wild-type hetR under the same conditions. The D17E substitution prevented DNA binding activity exhibited by wild-type HetR in mobility shift assays, whereas G36A and H69Y substitutions had no affect on DNA binding. D17E, G36A, and H69Y substitutions also resulted in higher levels of the corresponding HetR protein than of the wild-type protein when each was expressed from an inducible promoter in a hetR deletion strain, suggesting an effect on HetR protein turnover. Surprisingly, C48A and S152A substitutions, which were previously reported to result in a Het- phenotype, were found to have no effect on heterocyst differentiation or patterning when the corresponding mutations were introduced into an otherwise wild-type genetic background in Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120. The clustering of mutations that satisfied the positive selection near the amino terminus suggests an important role for this part of the protein in HetR function.
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