Cellulose in cyanobacteria. Origin of vascular plant cellulose synthase?

Plant Physiol. 2001 Oct;127(2):529-42.


Although cellulose biosynthesis among the cyanobacteria has been suggested previously, we present the first conclusive evidence, to our knowledge, of the presence of cellulose in these organisms. Based on the results of x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy of microfibrils, and cellobiohydrolase I-gold labeling, we report the occurrence of cellulose biosynthesis in nine species representing three of the five sections of cyanobacteria. Sequence analysis of the genomes of four cyanobacteria revealed the presence of multiple amino acid sequences bearing the DDD35QXXRW motif conserved in all cellulose synthases. Pairwise alignments demonstrated that CesAs from plants were more similar to putative cellulose synthases from Anabaena sp. Pasteur Culture Collection 7120 and Nostoc punctiforme American Type Culture Collection 29133 than any other cellulose synthases in the database. Multiple alignments of putative cellulose synthases from Anabaena sp. Pasteur Culture Collection 7120 and N. punctiforme American Type Culture Collection 29133 with the cellulose synthases of other prokaryotes, Arabidopsis, Gossypium hirsutum, Populus alba x Populus tremula, corn (Zea mays), and Dictyostelium discoideum showed that cyanobacteria share an insertion between conserved regions U1 and U2 found previously only in eukaryotic sequences. Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis indicates that the cyanobacterial cellulose synthases share a common branch with CesAs of vascular plants in a manner similar to the relationship observed with cyanobacterial and chloroplast 16s rRNAs, implying endosymbiotic transfer of CesA from cyanobacteria to plants and an ancient origin for cellulose synthase in eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis Proteins*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cellulose* / biosynthesis
  • Cellulose* / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / classification
  • Cyanobacteria / enzymology
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics*
  • Glucosyltransferases / classification
  • Glucosyltransferases / genetics*
  • Microfibrils / ultrastructure
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants / enzymology*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Cellulose
  • Glucosyltransferases
  • PRC1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • cellulose synthase (cyclic diguanylic acid)
  • cellulose synthase (UDP-forming)