Metacaspase involvement in programmed cell death of the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium

Dina Spungin, Kay D. Bidle, Ilana Berman-Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metacaspases are cysteine specific proteases implicated in cell-signalling, stress acclimation and programmed cell death (PCD) pathways in plants, fungi, protozoa, bacteria and algae. We investigated metacaspase-like gene expression and biochemical activity in the bloom-forming, N 2 -fixing, marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, which undergoes PCD under low iron and high-light stress. We examined these patterns with respect to in-silico analyses of protein domain architectures that revealed a diverse array of regulatory domains within Trichodesmium metacaspases-like (TeMC) proteins. Experimental manipulations of laboratory cultures and oceanic surface blooms of Trichodesmium from the South Pacific Ocean triggered PCD under Fe-limitation and high light along with enhanced TeMC activity and upregulated expression of diverse TeMC representatives containing different regulatory domains. Furthermore, TeMC activity was significantly and positively correlated with caspase-like activity, which has been routinely observed to increase with PCD induction in Trichodesmium. Although both TeMC and caspase-like activities were stimulated upon PCD induction, inhibitor treatments of these proteolytic activities provided further evidence of largely distinct substrate specificities, even though some inhibitory crossover was observed. Our findings are the first results linking metacaspase expression and activity in PCD induced mortality in Trichodesmium. Yet, the role/s and specific activities of these different proteins remain to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-681
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Microbiology


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