Evolution of chaperonin gene duplication in stigonematalean cyanobacteria (subsection V)

Julia Weissenbach, Judith Ilhan, David Bogumil, Nils Hülter, Karina Stucken, Tal Dagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Chaperonins promote protein folding and areknown to play a role in themaintenance of cellular stability under stress conditions. The group I bacterial chaperonin complex comprises GroEL, that forms a barrel-like oligomer, and GroES that forms the lid. In most eubacteria the GroES/GroEL chaperonin is encoded by a single-copy bicistronic operon, whereas in cyanobacteria up to three groES/groEL paralogs have been documented. Here we study the evolution and functional diversification of chaperonin paralogs in the heterocystous, multi-seriate filament forming cyanobacterium Chlorogloeopsis fritschii PCC 6912. The genome of C. fritschii encodes two groES/groEL operons (groESL1, groESL1.2) and amonocistronic groEL gene (groEL2). A phylogenetic reconstruction reveals that the groEL2 duplication is as ancient as cyanobacteria, whereas the groESL1.2 duplication occurred at the ancestor of heterocystous cyanobacteria. A comparison of the groEL paralogs transcription levels under different growth conditions shows that they have adapted distinct transcriptional regulation. Our results reveal that groEL1 and groEL1.2 are upregulated during diazotrophic conditions and the localization of their promoter activity points towards a role in heterocyst differentiation. Furthermore, protein-protein interaction assays suggest that paralogs encoded in the two operons assemble into hybrid complexes. The monocistronic encoded GroEL2 is not forming oligomers nor does it interact with the co-chaperonins. Interaction between GroES1.2 and GroEL1.2 could not be documented, suggesting that the groESL1.2 operon does not encode a functional chaperonin complex. Functional complementation experiments in Escherichia coli show that only GroES1/GroEL1 and GroES1/GroEL1.2 can substitute the native operon. In summary, the evolutionary consequences of chaperonin duplication in cyanobacteria include the retention of groESL1 as a housekeeping gene, subfunctionalization of groESL1.2 and neofunctionalization of the monocistronic groEL2 paralog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-252
Number of pages12
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • GroEL/groES
  • Heterocyst
  • Hsp60/Hsp10

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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