The complex evolution of secondary metabolism is important in biology, drug development, and synthetic biology. To examine this problem at a fine scale, we compared the genomes and chemistry of 24 strains of uncultivated cyanobacteria, Prochloron didemni, that live symbiotically with tropical ascidians and that produce natural products isolated from the animals. Although several animal species were obtained along a >5500 km transect of the Pacific Ocean, P. didemni strains are >97% identical across much of their genomes, with only a few exceptions concentrated in secondary metabolism. Secondary metabolic gene clusters were sporadically present or absent in identical genomic locations with no consistent pattern of co-occurrence. Discrete mutations were observed, leading to new chemicals that we isolated from animals. Functional cassettes encoding diverse chemicals are exchanged among a single population of symbiotic P. didemni that spans the tropical Pacific, providing the host animals with a varying arsenal of secondary metabolites.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)