Letters to Nature

Nature 424, 1037-1042 (28 August 2003) | doi:10.1038/nature01943; Received 9 May 2003; Accepted 28 July 2003; Published online 13 August 2003

The genome of a motile marine Synechococcus

B. Palenik1, B. Brahamsha1, F. W. Larimer2,3, M. Land2,3, L. Hauser2,3, P. Chain3,4, J. Lamerdin3,4, W. Regala3,4, E. E. Allen1,8, J. McCarren1, I. Paulsen5, A. Dufresne6, F. Partensky6, E. A. Webb7 & J. Waterbury7

  1. Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0202, USA
  2. Computational Biology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6480, USA
  3. Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, California 94598, USA
  4. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550-9234, USA
  5. TIGR, 9712 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850, USA
  6. UMR 7127 CNRS Station Biologique de Roscoff, 29682 Roscoff, France
  7. Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
  8. Present address: Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

Correspondence to: B. Palenik1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to B.P. (Email: bpalenik@ucsd.edu). The sequence for the chromosome of Synechococcus sp. strain WH8102 is deposited in GenBank under accession number BX548020.

Marine unicellular cyanobacteria are responsible for an estimated 20–40% of chlorophyll biomass and carbon fixation in the oceans1. Here we have sequenced and analysed the 2.4-megabase genome of Synechococcus sp. strain WH8102, revealing some of the ways that these organisms have adapted to their largely oligotrophic environment. WH8102 uses organic nitrogen and phosphorus sources and more sodium-dependent transporters than a model freshwater cyanobacterium. Furthermore, it seems to have adopted strategies for conserving limited iron stores by using nickel and cobalt in some enzymes, has reduced its regulatory machinery (consistent with the fact that the open ocean constitutes a far more constant and buffered environment than fresh water), and has evolved a unique type of swimming motility. The genome of WH8102 seems to have been greatly influenced by horizontal gene transfer, partially through phages. The genetic material contributed by horizontal gene transfer includes genes involved in the modification of the cell surface and in swimming motility. On the basis of its genome, WH8102 is more of a generalist than two related marine cyanobacteria2.