NrrA, a nitrogen-responsive response regulator facilitates heterocyst development in the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120

Mol Microbiol. 2006 Mar;59(6):1692-703. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05049.x.


The heterocyst is a specialized cell for nitrogen fixation in the filamentous cyanobacteria, and its development is triggered by limitation of combined nitrogen in the medium. During heterocyst development, patterns of gene expression change dramatically. We identified seven genes encoding transcriptional regulators that were upregulated by nitrogen deprivation in Anabaena PCC 7120, using an Anabaena oligonucleotide microarray. Among them, the nrrA gene, which encodes a response regulator of the OmpR family with a DNA-binding domain, has shown the most prominent induction after nitrogen deprivation. Expression of nrrA increased all through the filaments within 3 h of nitrogen deprivation and became higher in proheterocysts than in vegetative cells after 12 h. Sequence analysis of the promoter region of nrrA indicated that the induction of nrrA depended on NtcA, which is the global nitrogen regulator in cyanobacteria. In the nrrA deletion mutant, heterocyst development was delayed and the induction of hetR, which is the master gene in regulation of heterocyst development, was diminished up to 24 h nitrogen deprivation. It is concluded that nrrA facilitates heterocyst development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabaena / cytology*
  • Anabaena / genetics
  • Anabaena / growth & development*
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genes, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Nitrogen Fixation / genetics
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Transcription Factors / analysis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Transcription Factors
  • Nitrogen