Comparative genomic analysis revealed a gene for monoglucosyldiacylglycerol synthase, an enzyme for photosynthetic membrane lipid synthesis in cyanobacteria

Plant Physiol. 2006 Jul;141(3):1120-7. doi: 10.1104/pp.106.082859. Epub 2006 May 19.


Cyanobacteria have a thylakoid lipid composition very similar to that of plant chloroplasts, yet cyanobacteria are proposed to synthesize monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG), a major membrane polar lipid in photosynthetic membranes, by a different pathway. In addition, plant MGDG synthase has been cloned, but no ortholog has been reported in cyanobacterial genomes. We report here identification of the gene for monoglucosyldiacylglycerol (MGlcDG) synthase, which catalyzes the first step of galactolipid synthesis in cyanobacteria. Using comparative genomic analysis, candidates for the gene were selected based on the criteria that the enzyme activity is conserved between two species of cyanobacteria (unicellular [Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803] and filamentous [Anabaena sp. PCC 7120]), and we assumed three characteristics of the enzyme; namely, it harbors a glycosyltransferase motif, falls into a category of genes with unknown function, and shares significant similarity in amino acid sequence between these two cyanobacteria. By a motif search of all genes of Synechocystis, BLAST searches, and similarity searches between these two cyanobacteria, we identified four candidates for the enzyme that have all the characteristics we predicted. When expressed in Escherichia coli, one of the Synechocystis candidate proteins showed MGlcDG synthase activity in a UDP-glucose-dependent manner. The ortholog in Anabaena also showed the same activity. The enzyme was predicted to require a divalent cation for its activity, and this was confirmed by biochemical analysis. The MGlcDG synthase and the plant MGDG synthase shared low similarity, supporting the presumption that cyanobacteria and plants utilize different pathways to synthesize MGDG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anabaena / enzymology
  • Anabaena / genetics*
  • Galactolipids / biosynthesis*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Glucosyltransferases / genetics*
  • Glucosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Magnesium / physiology
  • Membrane Lipids / biosynthesis*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Photosynthesis / physiology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Synechocystis / enzymology
  • Synechocystis / genetics*
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucose


  • Galactolipids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Glucosyltransferases
  • 1,2-diacylglycerol 3-glucosyltransferase
  • Magnesium
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucose

Associated data

  • GENBANK/BAA18254
  • GENBANK/BAB76632