UV-A Irradiation Increases Scytonemin Biosynthesis in Cyanobacteria Inhabiting Halites at Salar Grande, Atacama Desert
Microbial consortia inhabiting evaporitic salt nodules at the Atacama Desert are dominated by unculturable cyanobacteria from the genus Halothece. Halite nodules provide transparency to photosynthetically active radiation and diminish photochemically damaging UV light. Atacama cyanobacteria synthesize scytonemin, a heterocyclic dimer, lipid soluble, UV-filtering pigment (in vivo absorption maximum at 370 nm) that accumulates at the extracellular sheath. Our goal was to demonstrate if UV-A
... ations modulate scytonemin biosynthesis in ground halites containing uncultured Halothece sp. cyanobacteria. Pulverized halite nodules with endolithic colonization were incubated under continuous UV-A radiation (3.6 W/m2) for 96 h, at 67% relative humidity, mimicking their natural habitat. Scytonemin content and relative transcription levels of scyB gene (a key gene in the biosynthesis of scytonemin) were evaluated by spectrophotometry and quantitative RT-PCR, respectively. After 48 h under these experimental conditions, the ratio scytonemin/chlorophyll a and the transcription of scyB gene increased to a maximal 1.7-fold value. Therefore, endolithic Halothece cyanobacteria in halites are metabolically active and UV radiation is an environmental stressor with a positive influence on scyB gene transcription and scytonemin biosynthesis. Endolithobiontic cyanobacteria in Atacama show a resilient evolutive and adaptive strategy to survive in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.