Temporal Gene Expression of the Cyanobacterium Arthrospira in Response to Gamma Rays

Hanène Badri, Pieter Monsieurs, Ilse Coninx, Robin Nauts, Ruddy Wattiez, Natalie Leys

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The edible cyanobacterium Arthrospira is resistant to ionising radiation. The cellular mechanisms underlying this radiation resistance are, however, still largely unknown. Therefore, additional molecular analysis was performed to investigate how these cells can escape from, protect against, or repair the radiation damage. Arthrospira cells were shortly exposed to different doses of 60Co gamma rays and the dynamic response was investigated by monitoring its gene expression and cell physiology at different time points after irradiation. The results revealed a fast switch from an active growth state to a kind of 'survival modus' during which the cells put photosynthesis, carbon and nitrogen assimilation on hold and activate pathways for cellular protection, detoxification, and repair. The higher the radiation dose, the more pronounced this global emergency response is expressed. Genes repressed during early response, suggested a reduction of photosystem II and I activity and reduced tricarboxylic acid (TCA) and Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycles, combined with an activation of the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP). For reactive oxygen species detoxification and restoration of the redox balance in Arthrospira cells, the results suggested a powerful contribution of the antioxidant molecule glutathione. The repair mechanisms of Arthrospira cells that were immediately switched on, involve mainly proteases for damaged protein removal, single strand DNA repair and restriction modification systems, while recA was not induced. Additionally, the exposed cells showed significant increased expression of arh genes, coding for a novel group of protein of unknown function, also seen in our previous irradiation studies. This observation confirms our hypothesis that arh genes are key elements in radiation resistance of Arthrospira, requiring further investigation. This study provides new insights into phasic response and the cellular pathways involved in the radiation resistance of microbial cells, in particularly for photosynthetic organisms as the cyanobacterium Arthrospira.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0135565
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon Cycle/radiation effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gamma Rays/adverse effects
  • Glutathione/metabolism
  • Nitrogen/metabolism
  • Photosynthesis/radiation effects
  • Pigmentation/radiation effects
  • Radiation Tolerance/radiation effects
  • Spirulina/genetics
  • Transcriptome/radiation effects


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