Globally distributed Myxococcota with photosynthesis gene clusters illuminate the origin and evolution of a potentially chimeric lifestyle

Li et al. (2023). Nature Communications 14 (1)
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General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology General Chemistry General Physics and Astronomy Multidisciplinary
AbstractPhotosynthesis is a fundamental biogeochemical process, thought to be restricted to a few bacterial and eukaryotic phyla. However, understanding the origin and evolution of phototrophic organisms can be impeded and biased by the difficulties of cultivation. Here, we analyzed metagenomic datasets and found potential photosynthetic abilities encoded in the genomes of uncultivated bacteria within the phylum Myxococcota. A putative photosynthesis gene cluster encoding a type-II reaction center appears in at least six Myxococcota families from three classes, suggesting vertical inheritance of these genes from an early common ancestor, with multiple independent losses in other lineages. Analysis of metatranscriptomic datasets indicate that the putative myxococcotal photosynthesis genes are actively expressed in various natural environments. Furthermore, heterologous expression of myxococcotal pigment biosynthesis genes in a purple bacterium supports that the genes can drive photosynthetic processes. Given that predatory abilities are thought to be widespread across Myxococcota, our results suggest the intriguing possibility of a chimeric lifestyle (combining predatory and photosynthetic abilities) in members of this phylum.
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