The feather moss Hylocomium splendens affects the transcriptional profile of a symbiotic cyanobacterium in relation to acquisition and turnover of key nutrients

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Moss-cyanobacteria symbioses were proposed to be based on nutrient exchange, with hosts providing C and S while bacteria provide N, but we still lack understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of their interactions. We investigated how contact between the ubiquitous moss Hylocomium splendens and its cyanobiont affects nutrient-related gene expression of both partners. We isolated a cyanobacterium from H. splendens and co-incubated it with washed H. splendens shoots. Cyanobacterium and moss were also incubated separately. After 1 week, we performed acetylene reduction assays to estimate N2 fixation and RNAseq to evaluate metatranscriptomes. Genes related to N2 fixation and the biosynthesis of several amino acids were up-regulated in the cyanobiont when hosted by the moss. However, S-uptake and the biosynthesis of the S-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine were down-regulated in the cyanobiont while the degradation of selenocysteine was up-regulated. In contrast, the number of differentially expressed genes in the moss was much lower, and almost no transcripts related to nutrient metabolism were affected. It is possible that, at least during the early stage of this symbiosis, the cyanobiont receives few if any nutrients from the host in return for N, suggesting that moss–cyanobacteria symbioses encompass relationships that are more plastic than a constant mutualist flow of nutrients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024

ID: 383000333