Light is a source of energy and an environmental cue that is available in excess in most surface environments. In prokaryotic systems, conversion of light to energy by photoautotrophs and photoheterotrophs is well understood, but the conversion of light to information and the cellular response to that information has been characterized in only a few species. Our goal was to explore the response of freshwater Actinobacteria, which are ubiquitous in illuminated aquatic environments, to light. We found that Actinobacteria without functional photosystems grow faster in the light, likely because sugar transport and metabolism are upregulated in the light. Based on the action spectrum of the growth effect, and comparisons of the genomes of three Actinobacteria with this growth rate phenotype, we propose that the photosensor in these strains is a putative CryB-type cryptochrome. The ability to sense light and upregulate carbohydrate transport during the day could allow these cells to coordinate their time of maximum organic carbon uptake with the time of maximum organic carbon release by primary producers.Importance Sunlight provides information about both place and time. In sunlit aquatic environments, primary producers release organic carbon and nitrogen along with other growth factors during the day. The ability of Actinobacteria to coordinate organic carbon uptake and utilization with production of photosynthate enables them to grow more efficiently in the daytime, and potentially gives them a competitive advantage over heterotrophs that constitutively produce carbohydrate transporters, which is energetically costly, or produce transporters only after detection of the substrate(s), which delays their response. Understanding how light cues the transport of organic carbon and its conversion to biomass is key to understanding biochemical mechanisms within the carbon cycle, the fluxes through it, and the variety of mechanisms by which light enhances growth. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.
Journal: Journal of bacteriology