Cyanobacterial symbionts diverged in the late Cretaceous towards lineage-specific nitrogen fixation factories in single-celled phytoplankton

Francisco M. Cornejo-Castillo, Ana M. Cabello, Guillem Salazar, Patricia Sánchez-Baracaldo, Gipsi Lima-Mendez, Pascal Hingamp, Adriana Alberti, Shinichi Sunagawa, Peer Bork, Colomban De Vargas, Jeroen Raes, Chris Bowler, Patrick Wincker, Jonathan P. Zehr, Josep M. Gasol, Ramon Massana, Silvia G. Acinas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

The unicellular cyanobacterium UCYN-A, one of the major contributors to nitrogen fixation in the open ocean, lives in symbiosis with single-celled phytoplankton. UCYN-A includes several closely related lineages whose partner fidelity, genome-wide expression and time of evolutionary divergence remain to be resolved. Here we detect and distinguish UCYN-A1 and UCYN-A2 lineages in symbiosis with two distinct prymnesiophyte partners in the South Atlantic Ocean. Both symbiotic systems are lineage specific and differ in the number of UCYN-A cells involved. Our analyses infer a streamlined genome expression towards nitrogen fixation in both UCYN-A lineages. Comparative genomics reveal a strong purifying selection in UCYN-A1 and UCYN-A2 with a diversification process ∼91 Myr ago, in the late Cretaceous, after the low-nutrient regime period occurred during the Jurassic. These findings suggest that UCYN-A diversified in a co-evolutionary process, wherein their prymnesiophyte partners acted as a barrier driving an allopatric speciation of extant UCYN-A lineages.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11071
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2016

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