Background: Cyanobacteria often produce several different oligopeptides, with unknown biological functions, by nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS). Although some cyanobacterial NRPS gene cluster types are well described, the entire NRPS genomic content within a single cyanobacterial strain has never been investigated. Here we have combined a genome-wide analysis using massive parallel pyrosequencing ("454") and mass spectrometry screening of oligopeptides produced in the strain Planktothrix rubescens NIVA CYA 98 in order to identify all putative gene clusters for oligopeptides.
Results: Thirteen types of oligopeptides were uncovered by mass spectrometry (MS) analyses. Microcystin, cyanopeptolin and aeruginosin synthetases, highly similar to already characterized NRPS, were present in the genome. Two novel NRPS gene clusters were associated with production of anabaenopeptins and microginins, respectively. Sequence-depth of the genome and real-time PCR data revealed three copies of the microginin gene cluster. Since NRPS gene cluster candidates for microviridin and oscillatorin synthesis could not be found, putative (gene encoded) precursor peptide sequences to microviridin and oscillatorin were found in the genes mdnA and oscA, respectively. The genes flanking the microviridin and oscillatorin precursor genes encode putative modifying enzymes of the precursor oligopeptides. We therefore propose ribosomal pathways involving modifications and cyclisation for microviridin and oscillatorin. The microviridin, anabaenopeptin and cyanopeptolin gene clusters are situated in close proximity to each other, constituting an oligopeptide island.
Conclusion: Altogether seven nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) gene clusters and two gene clusters putatively encoding ribosomal oligopeptide biosynthetic pathways were revealed. Our results demonstrate that whole genome shotgun sequencing combined with MS-directed determination of oligopeptides successfully can identify NRPS gene clusters and the corresponding oligopeptides. The analyses suggest independent evolution of all NRPS gene clusters as functional units. Our data indicate that the Planktothrix genome displays evolution of dual pathways (NRPS and ribosomal) for production of oligopeptides in order to maximize the diversity of oligopeptides with similar but functional discrete bioactivities.