The cell wall in heterocyst formation by Anabaena sp. PCC 7120

J Basic Microbiol. 2009 Feb;49(1):5-24. doi: 10.1002/jobm.200800300.


Filamentous cyanobacteria like Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 are able to develop a specialized cell type named heterocyst from vegetative cells in times of nitrogen starvation. Heterocyst development is controlled by the function of two master-regulators, NtcA and HetR. This review focuses on the remodeling of the cell wall during transition from the vegetative cell to a heterocyst, including the formation of the heterocyst-specific glycolipid layer and the heterocyst envelope polysaccharide layer. The functional assignment of genes involved therein, their genomic organization and their regulation are highlighted. Communication pathways and exchange routes for metabolites between heterocysts and vegetative cells are discussed. Further on, an overview of the heterocyst outer membrane proteome is given, together with possible functions of the identified proteins in the metabolism of heterocysts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anabaena / genetics
  • Anabaena / growth & development*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / genetics
  • Cell Wall / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Peptidoglycan / metabolism
  • Proteome


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Proteome