Alcohol stress on cyanobacterial membranes: New insights revealed by transcriptomics

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Cyanobacteria are model photosynthetic prokaryotic organisms often used in biotechnology to produce biofuels including alcohols. The effect of alcohols on cyanobacterial cell physiology and specifically on membrane fluidity is poorly understood. Previous research on various primary aliphatic alcohols found that alcohols with a short hydrocarbon chain (C1-C3) do not affect expression of genes related to membrane physical state. In addition, less water-soluble alcohols with a hydrocarbon chain longer than C8 are found to have a reduced ability to reach cellular membranes hence do not drastically change membrane physical state or induce expression of stress-responsive genes. Therefore, hexan-1-ol (C6) is suggested to have the most profound effect on cyanobacterial membrane physical state. Here, we studied the effects of hexan-1-ol on the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 transcriptome. The transcriptome data obtained is compared to the previously reported analysis of gene expression induced by benzyl alcohol and butan-1-ol. The set of genes whose expression is induced after exposure to all three studied alcohols is identified. The expression under alcohol stress for several general stress response operons is analyzed, and examples of antisense interactions of RNA are investigated.

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