ISME J 12 (2) 556-567 [2017-10-31; online 2017-10-31]
The tropical ascidian Lissoclinum patella hosts two enigmatic cyanobacteria: (1) the photoendosymbiont Prochloron spp., a producer of valuable bioactive compounds and (2) the chlorophyll-d containing Acaryochloris spp., residing in the near-infrared enriched underside of the animal. Despite numerous efforts, Prochloron remains uncultivable, restricting the investigation of its biochemical potential to cultivation-independent techniques. Likewise, in both cyanobacteria, universally important parameters on light-niche adaptation and in situ photosynthetic regulation are unknown. Here we used genome sequencing, transcriptomics and metabolomics to investigate the symbiotic linkage between host and photoendosymbiont and simultaneously probed the transcriptional response of Acaryochloris in situ. During high light, both cyanobacteria downregulate CO2 fixing pathways, likely a result of O2 photorespiration on the functioning of RuBisCO, and employ a variety of stress-quenching mechanisms, even under less stressful far-red light (Acaryochloris). Metabolomics reveals a distinct biochemical modulation between Prochloron and L. patella, including noon/midnight-dependent signatures of amino acids, nitrogenous waste products and primary photosynthates. Surprisingly, Prochloron constitutively expressed genes coding for patellamides, that is, cyclic peptides of great pharmaceutical value, with yet unknown ecological significance. Together these findings shed further light on far-red-driven photosynthesis in natural consortia, the interplay of Prochloron and its ascidian partner in a model chordate photosymbiosis and the uncultivability of Prochloron.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 31 October 2017; doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.192.