Requirement of Fra proteins for communication channels between cells in the filamentous nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Aug 11;112(32):E4458-64. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512232112. Epub 2015 Jul 27.


The filamentous nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 differentiates specialized cells, heterocysts, that fix atmospheric nitrogen and transfer the fixed nitrogen to adjacent vegetative cells. Reciprocally, vegetative cells transfer fixed carbon to heterocysts. Several routes have been described for metabolite exchange within the filament, one of which involves communicating channels that penetrate the septum between adjacent cells. Several fra gene mutants were isolated 25 y ago on the basis of their phenotypes: inability to fix nitrogen and fragmentation of filaments upon transfer from N+ to N- media. Cryopreservation combined with electron tomography were used to investigate the role of three fra gene products in channel formation. FraC and FraG are clearly involved in channel formation, whereas FraD has a minor part. Additionally, FraG was located close to the cytoplasmic membrane and in the heterocyst neck, using immunogold labeling with antibody raised to the N-terminal domain of the FraG protein.

Keywords: Fra proteins; cell communication; channels; cyanobacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabaena / cytology*
  • Anabaena / metabolism*
  • Anabaena / ultrastructure
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nitrogen Fixation*
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Tomography


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • FraC protein, Anabaena
  • cyanophycin