The indole-alkaloid scytonemin is the most common and widespread sunscreen among cyanobacteria. Previous research has focused on its nature, distribution, ecology, physiology, and biochemistry, but its molecular genetics have not been explored. In this study, a scytonemin-deficient mutant of the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133 was obtained by random transposon insertion into open reading frame NpR1273. The absence of scytonemin under conditions of induction by UV irradiation was the single phenotypic difference detected in a comparative analysis of the wild type and the mutant. A cause-effect relationship between the phenotype and the mutation in NpR1273 was demonstrated by constructing a second scytoneminless mutant through directed mutagenesis of that gene. The genomic region flanking the mutation revealed an 18-gene cluster (NpR1276 to NpR1259). Four putative genes in the cluster, NpR1274 to NpR1271, with no previously known functions, are likely to be involved in the assembly of scytonemin. Also in this cluster, there is a redundant set of genes coding for shikimic acid and aromatic amino acid biosynthesis enzymes, leading to the production of tryptophan and tyrosine, which are likely to be biosynthetic precursors of the sunscreen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology