Roles of second messengers in the regulation of cyanobacterial physiology: the carbon-concentrating mechanism and beyond

Microlife. 2023 Feb 23:4:uqad008. doi: 10.1093/femsml/uqad008. eCollection 2023.


Second messengers are a fundamental category of small molecules and ions that are involved in the regulation of many processes in all domains of life. Here we focus on cyanobacteria, prokaryotes playing important roles as primary producers in the geochemical cycles due to their capability of oxygenic photosynthesis and carbon and nitrogen fixation. Of particular interest is the inorganic carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM), which allows cyanobacteria to concentrate CO2 near RubisCO. This mechanism needs to acclimate toward fluctuating conditions, such as inorganic carbon availability, intracellular energy levels, diurnal light cycle, light intensity, nitrogen availability, and redox state of the cell. During acclimation to such changing conditions, second messengers play a crucial role, particularly important is their interaction with the carbon control protein SbtB, a member of the PII regulator protein superfamily. SbtB is capable of binding several second messengers, uniquely adenyl nucleotides, to interact with different partners in a variety of responses. The main identified interaction partner is the bicarbonate transporter SbtA, which is regulated via SbtB depending on the energy state of the cell, the light conditions, and different CO2 availability, including cAMP signaling. The interaction with the glycogen branching enzyme, GlgB, showed a role for SbtB in the c-di-AMP-dependent regulation of glycogen synthesis during the diurnal life cycle of cyanobacteria. SbtB has also been shown to impact gene expression and metabolism during acclimation to changing CO2 conditions. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the complex second messenger regulatory network in cyanobacteria, with emphasis on carbon metabolism.

Keywords: CCM; SbtB; Synechocystis; c-di-AMP; cAMP; glycogen.

Publication types

  • Review