Biosynthesis of microcystin hepatotoxins in the cyanobacterial genusFischerella

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Microcystins (MCs) are serine/threonine phosphatase inhibitors synthesized by several members of the phylum Cyanobacteria. Mining the draft genome sequence of the nostocalean MC-producing Fischerella sp. strain CENA161 led to the identification of three contigs containing mcy genes. Subsequent PCR and Sanger sequencing allowed the assembling of its complete biosynthetic mcy gene cluster with 55,016 bases in length. The cluster encoding ten genes (mcyA-J) with a central bidirectional promoter was organized in a similar manner as found in other genera of nostocalean cyanobacteria. However, the nucleotide sequence of the mcy gene cluster of Fischerella sp. CENA161 showed significant differences from all the other MC-producing cyanobacterial genera, sharing only 85.2 to 74.1% identities. Potential MC variants produced by Fischerella sp. CENA161 were predicted by the analysis of the adenylation domain binding pockets and further investigated by LC-MS/MS analysis. To our knowledge, this study presents the first complete mcy cluster characterization from a strain of the genus Fischerella, providing new insight into the distribution and evolution of MCs in the phylum Cyanobacteria.Graphical abstractHighlightsThe complete Fischerella microcystin gene cluster was characterized.Significant differences were found from clusters thus far characterized.Similarity in the arrangement of microcystin genes follows taxonomic position.Rare MC-FR microcystin variant was detected.

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