Gruber, Ansgar

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Ansgar
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Mitochondrial phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase contributes to carbon fixation in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum at low inorganic carbon concentrations

2022-08, Yu, Guilan, Nakajima, Kensuke, Gruber, Ansgar, Río Bártulos, Carolina, Schober, Alexander, Lepetit, Bernard, Yohannes, Elizabeth, Matsuda, Yusuke, Kroth, Peter G.

Photosynthetic carbon fixation is often limited by CO2 availability, which led to the evolution of CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs). Some diatoms possess CCMs that employ biochemical fixation of bicarbonate, similar to C4 plants, but it is controversially discussed whether biochemical CCMs are a commonly found in diatoms.
In the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase (PEPC) is present in two isoforms, PEPC1 in the plastids and PEPC2 in the mitochondria. We used real-time quantitative PCR, western blots, and enzymatic assays to examine PEPC expression and PEPC activities, under low and high concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC).
We generated and analyzed individual knockout cell lines of PEPC1 and PEPC2, as well as a PEPC1/2 double-knockout strain. While we could not detect an altered phenotype in the PEPC1 knockout strains at ambient, low or high DIC concentrations, PEPC2 and the double-knockout strains grown under ambient air or lower DIC availability, showed reduced growth and photosynthetic affinity to DIC, while behaving similarly as WT cells at high DIC concentrations. These mutants furthermore exhibited significantly lower 13C/12C ratios compared to WT.
Our data implies that in P. tricornutum at least parts of the CCM relies on biochemical bicarbonate fixation catalyzed by the mitochondrial PEPC2.

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Blasticidin-S deaminase, a new selection marker for genetic transformation of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

2018, Buck, Jochen Mario, Río Bártulos, Carolina, Gruber, Ansgar, Kroth, Peter G.

Most genetic transformation protocols for the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum rely on one of two available antibiotics as selection markers: Zeocin (a formulation of phleomycin D1) or nourseothricin. This limits the number of possible consecutive genetic transformations that can be performed. In order to expand the biotechnological possibilities for P. tricornutum, we searched for additional antibiotics and corresponding resistance genes that might be suitable for use with this diatom. Among the three different antibiotics tested in this study, blasticidin-S and tunicamycin turned out to be lethal to wild-type cells at low concentrations, while voriconazole had no detectable effect on P. tricornutum. Testing the respective resistance genes, we found that the blasticidin-S deaminase gene (bsr) effectively conferred resistance against blasticidin-S to P. tricornutum. Furthermore, we could show that expression of bsr did not lead to cross-resistances against Zeocin or nourseothricin, and that genetically transformed cell lines with resistance against Zeocin or nourseothricin were not resistant against blasticidin-S. In a proof of concept, we also successfully generated double resistant (against blasticidin-S and nourseothricin) P. tricornutum cell lines by co-delivering the bsr vector with a vector conferring nourseothricin resistance to wild-type cells.

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Shuttling of (deoxy-) purine nucleotides between compartments of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

2017, Chu, Lili, Gruber, Ansgar, Ast, Michelle, Schmitz-Esser, Stephan, Altensell, Jacqueline, Neuhaus, Horst Ekkehard, Kroth, Peter G., Haferkamp, Ilka

Diatom plastids show several peculiarities when compared with primary plastids of higher plants or algae. They are surrounded by four membranes and depend on nucleotide uptake because, unlike in plants, nucleotide de novo synthesis exclusively occurs in the cytosol. Previous analyses suggest that two specifically adapted nucleotide transporters (NTTs) facilitate the required passage of nucleotides across the innermost plastid membrane. However, nucleotide transport across the additional plastid membranes remains to be clarified. Phylogenetic studies, transport assays with the recombinant protein as well as GFP-based targeting analyses allowed detailed characterization of a novel isoform (PtNTT5) of the six NTTs of Phaeodactylum tricornutum. PtNTT5 exhibits low amino acid similarities and is only distantly related to all previously characterized NTTs. However, in a heterologous expression system, it acts as a nucleotide antiporter and prefers various (deoxy-) purine nucleotides as substrates. Interestingly, PtNTT5 is probably located in the endoplasmic reticulum, which in diatoms also represents the outermost plastid membrane. PtNTT5, with its unusual transport properties, phylogeny and localization, can be taken as further evidence for the establishment of a sophisticated and specifically adapted nucleotide transport system in diatom plastids.

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Plastid proteome prediction for diatoms and other algae with secondary plastids of the red lineage

2015, Gruber, Ansgar, Rocap, Gabrielle, Kroth, Peter G., Armbrust, E. Virginia, Mock, Thomas

The plastids of ecologically and economically important algae from phyla such as stramenopiles, dinoflagellates and cryptophytes were acquired via a secondary endosymbiosis and are surrounded by three or four membranes. Nuclear-encoded plastid-localized proteins contain N-terminal bipartite targeting peptides with the conserved amino acid sequence motif ‘ASAFAP’. Here we identify the plastid proteomes of two diatoms, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, using a customized prediction tool (ASAFind) that identifies nuclear-encoded plastid proteins in algae with secondary plastids of the red lineage based on the output of SignalP and the identification of conserved ‘ASAFAP’ motifs and transit peptides. We tested ASAFind against a large reference dataset of diatom proteins with experimentally confirmed subcellular localization and found that the tool accurately identified plastid-localized proteins with both high sensitivity and high specificity. To identify nucleus-encoded plastid proteins of T. pseudonana and P. tricornutum we generated optimized sets of gene models for both whole genomes, to increase the percentage of full-length proteins compared with previous assembly model sets. ASAFind applied to these optimized sets revealed that about 8% of the proteins encoded in their nuclear genomes were predicted to be plastid localized and therefore represent the putative plastid proteomes of these algae.

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Organelle Studies and Proteome Analyses on Mitochondria and Plastids Fractions from the Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana

2019-08-01, Schober, Alexander, Río Bártulos, Carolina, Bischoff, Annsophie, Lepetit, Bernard, Gruber, Ansgar, Kroth, Peter G.

Diatoms are unicellular algae and evolved by secondary endosymbiosis, a process in which a red alga-like eukaryote was engulfed by a heterotrophic eukaryotic cell. This gave rise to plastids of remarkable complex architecture and ultrastructure that require elaborate protein importing, trafficking, signaling and intracellular cross-talk pathways. Studying both plastids and mitochondria and their distinctive physiological pathways in organello may greatly contribute to our understanding of photosynthesis, mitochondrial respiration, and diatom evolution. The isolation of such complex organelles, however, is still demanding, and existing protocols are either limited to a few species (for plastids) or have not been reported for diatoms so far (for mitochondria). In this work, we present the first isolation protocol for mitochondria from the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. Apart from that, we extended the protocol so that it is also applicable for the purification of a high-quality plastids fraction, and provide detailed structural and physiological characterizations of the resulting organelles. Isolated mitochondria were structurally intact, showed clear evidence of mitochondrial respiration, but the fractions still contained residual cell fragments. In contrast, plastid isolates were virtually free of cellular contaminants, featured structurally preserved thylakoids performing electron transport, but lost most of their stromal components as concluded from western blots and mass spectrometry. LC-ESI-MS/MS studies on mitochondria and thylakoids, moreover, allowed detailed proteome analyses which resulted in extensive proteome maps for both plastids and mitochondria thus helping us to broaden our understanding of organelle metabolism and functionality in diatoms.

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Intracellular metabolic pathway distribution in diatoms and tools for genome-enabled experimental diatom research

2017-09-05, Gruber, Ansgar, Kroth, Peter G.

Diatoms are important primary producers in the oceans and can also dominate other aquatic habitats. One reason for the success of this phylogenetically relatively young group of unicellular organisms could be the impressive redundancy and diversity of metabolic isoenzymes in diatoms. This redundancy is a result of the evolutionary origin of diatom plastids by a eukaryote-eukaryote endosymbiosis, a process that implies temporary redundancy of functionally complete eukaryotic genomes. During the establishment of the plastids, this redundancy was partially reduced via gene losses, and was partially retained via gene transfer to the nucleus of the respective host cell. These gene transfers required re-assignment of intracellular targeting signals, a process that simultaneously altered the intracellular distribution of metabolic enzymes compared with the ancestral cells. Genome annotation, the correct assignment of the gene products and the prediction of putative function, strongly depends on the correct prediction of the intracellular targeting of a gene product. Here again diatoms are very peculiar, because the targeting systems for organelle import are partially different to those in land plants. In this review, we describe methods of predicting intracellular enzyme locations, highlight findings of metabolic peculiarities in diatoms and present genome-enabled approaches to study their metabolism.This article is part of the themed issue 'The peculiar carbon metabolism in diatoms'.

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Controlled supply of CO2 to batch cultures of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

2017, Gruber, Ansgar, Kroth, Peter G., Yu, Guilan

For the growth of photosynthetic organisms, supply of CO2 is essential. Experimental work on the uptake and utilisation of inorganic carbon, requires that CO2 concentrations can be adjusted and kept stable. Here we tested the suitability of a culture method that allows supply of CO2 to a cell suspension, without the need of a continuous external gas supply for experimental work with the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. This approach utilizes buffers with different ratios of HCO3-/CO32- in one chamber of a two-tier vessel, releasing different amounts of CO2 to the gas phase of the vessel, which is shared with the cell culture in the other chamber of the vessel. We cultured P. tricornutum under three different CO2 concentrations, while monitoring cell density, CO2 concentration in the gas phase, and pH within the cultures. We found the method very useful for work with P. tricornutum and found that the method also allows the creation of CO2 deplete conditions. This culturing system, while not as precise as a chemostat culture with supply of gas mixtures containing CO2, is simple to use and offers the possibility to adjust CO2 growth conditions.

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The intracellular distribution of inorganic carbon fixing enzymes does not support the presence of a C4 pathway in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

2018-08, Ewe, Daniela, Tachibana, Masaaki, Kikutani, Sae, Gruber, Ansgar, Río Bártulos, Carolina, Konert, Grzegorz, Kaplan, Aaron, Matsuda, Yusuke, Kroth, Peter G.

Diatoms are unicellular algae and important primary producers. The process of carbon fixation in diatoms is very efficient even though the availability of dissolved CO2 in sea water is very low. The operation of a carbon concentrating mechanism (CCM) also makes the more abundant bicarbonate accessible for photosynthetic carbon fixation. Diatoms possess carbonic anhydrases as well as metabolic enzymes potentially involved in C4 pathways; however, the question as to whether a C4 pathway plays a general role in diatoms is not yet solved. While genome analyses indicate that the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum possesses all the enzymes required to operate a C4 pathway, silencing of the pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase (PPDK) in a genetically transformed cell line does not lead to reduced photosynthetic carbon fixation. In this study, we have determined the intracellular location of all enzymes potentially involved in C4-like carbon fixing pathways in P. tricornutum by expression of the respective proteins fused to green fluorescent protein (GFP), followed by fluorescence microscopy. Furthermore, we compared the results to known pathways and locations of enzymes in higher plants performing C3 or C4 photosynthesis. This approach revealed that the intracellular distribution of the investigated enzymes is quite different from the one observed in higher plants. In particular, the apparent lack of a plastidic decarboxylase in P. tricornutum indicates that this diatom does not perform a C4-like CCM.

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Evolutionary genomics of the cold-adapted diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus

2017-01-16, Mock, Thomas, Otillar, Robert P., Strauss, Jan, McMullan, Mark, Paajanen, Pirita, Schmutz, Jeremy, Salamov, Asaf, Sanges, Remo, Gruber, Ansgar, Kroth, Peter G.

The Southern Ocean houses a diverse and productive community of organisms. Unicellular eukaryotic diatoms are the main primary producers in this environment, where photosynthesis is limited by low concentrations of dissolved iron and large seasonal fluctuations in light, temperature and the extent of sea ice. How diatoms have adapted to this extreme environment is largely unknown. Here we present insights into the genome evolution of a cold-adapted diatom from the Southern Ocean, Fragilariopsis cylindrus, based on a comparison with temperate diatoms. We find that approximately 24.7 per cent of the diploid F. cylindrus genome consists of genetic loci with alleles that are highly divergent (15.1 megabases of the total genome size of 61.1 megabases). These divergent alleles were differentially expressed across environmental conditions, including darkness, low iron, freezing, elevated temperature and increased CO2. Alleles with the largest ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous nucleotide substitutions also show the most pronounced condition-dependent expression, suggesting a correlation between diversifying selection and allelic differentiation. Divergent alleles may be involved in adaptation to environmental fluctuations in the Southern Ocean.

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Rapid induction of GFP expression by the nitrate reductase promoter in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

2016-08-25, Chu, Lili, Ewe, Daniela, Río Bártulos, Carolina, Kroth, Peter G., Gruber, Ansgar

An essential prerequisite for a controlled transgene expression is the choice of a suitable promoter. In the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, the most commonly used promoters for trans-gene expression are the light dependent lhcf1 promoters (derived from two endogenous genes encoding fucoxanthin chlorophyll a/c binding proteins) and the nitrate dependent nr promoter (derived from the endogenous nitrate reductase gene). In this study, we investigated the time dependent expression of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter under control of the nitrate reductase promoter in independently genetically transformed P. tricornutum cell lines following induction of expression by change of the nitrogen source in the medium via flow cytometry, microscopy and western blotting. In all investigated cell lines, GFP fluorescence started to increase 1 h after change of the medium, the fastest increase rates were observed between 2 and 3 h. Fluorescence continued to increase slightly for up to 7 h even after transfer of the cells to ammonium medium. The subsequent decrease of GFP fluorescence was much slower than the increase, probably due to the stability of GFP. The investigation of several cell lines transformed with nr based constructs revealed that, also in the absence of nitrate, the promoter may show residual activity. Furthermore, we observed a strong variation of gene expression between independent cell lines, emphasising the importance of a thorough characterisation of genetically modified cell lines and their individual expression patterns.