Ni uptake and limitation in marine Synechococcus strains

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jan;74(1):23-31. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01007-07. Epub 2007 Oct 19.


Ni accumulation and utilization were studied in two strains of marine Synechococcus, isolated from both coastal (CC9311; clade I) and open-ocean (WH8102; clade III) environments, for which complete genome sequences are available. Both strains have genes encoding an Ni-containing urease and when grown on urea without Ni become Ni-N colimited. The Ni requirements of these strains also depend upon the genomic complement of genes encoding superoxide dismutase (SOD). WH8102, with a gene encoding only an Ni-SOD, has a novel obligate requirement for Ni, regardless of the N source. Reduced SOD activity in Ni-depleted cultures of WH8102 supports the link of this strain's Ni requirement to Ni-SOD. The genome of CC9311 contains a gene for a Cu/Zn-SOD in addition to a predicted pair of Ni-SODs, yet this strain cannot grow without Ni on NO(3)(-) and can grow only slowly on NH(4)(+) without Ni, implying that the Cu/Zn-SOD cannot completely replace Ni-SOD in marine cyanobacteria. CC9311 does have a greater tolerance for Ni starvation. Both strains increase their Ni uptake capabilities and actively bioconcentrate Ni in response to decreasing extracellular and intracellular Ni. The changes in Ni uptake rates were more pronounced in WH8102 than in CC9311 and for growth on urea or nitrate than for growth on ammonia. These results, combined with an analysis of fully sequenced marine cyanobacterial genomes, suggest that the growth of many marine Synechococcus and all Prochlorococcus strains is dependent upon Ni.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Nickel / metabolism*
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / metabolism
  • Seawater / microbiology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Synechococcus / growth & development
  • Synechococcus / isolation & purification
  • Synechococcus / metabolism*
  • Urea / metabolism
  • Urease / genetics
  • Urease / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Nitrates
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Nickel
  • Urea
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Urease
  • Nitrogen