Single-cell genomics unveiled a cryptic cyanobacterial lineage with a worldwide distribution hidden by a dinoflagellate host

Takuro Nakayama, Mami Nomura, Yoshihito Takano, Goro Tanifuji, Kogiku Shiba, Kazuo Inaba, Yuji Inagaki, Masakado Kawata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Cyanobacteria are one of the most important contributors to oceanic primary production and survive in a wide range of marine habitats. Much effort has been made to understand their ecological features, diversity, and evolution, based mainly on data from free-living cyanobacterial species. In addition, symbiosis has emerged as an important lifestyle of oceanic microbes and increasing knowledge of cyanobacteria in symbiotic relationships with unicellular eukaryotes suggests their significance in understanding the global oceanic ecosystem. However, detailed characteristics of these cyanobacteria remain poorly described. To gain better insight into marine cyanobacteria in symbiosis, we sequenced the genome of cyanobacteria collected from a cell of a pelagic dinoflagellate that is known to host cyanobacterial symbionts within a specialized chamber. Phylogenetic analyses using the genome sequence revealed that the cyanobacterium represents an underdescribed lineage within an extensively studied, ecologically important group of marine cyanobacteria. Metagenomic analyses demonstrated that this cyanobacterial lineage is globally distributed and strictly coexists with its host dinoflagellates, suggesting that the intimate symbiotic association allowed the cyanobacteria to escape from previous metagenomic studies. Furthermore, a comparative analysis of the protein repertoire with related species indicated that the lineage has independently undergone reductive genome evolution to a similar extent as Prochlorococcus, which has the most reduced genomes among free-living cyanobacteria. Discovery of this cyanobacterial lineage, hidden by its symbiotic lifestyle, provides crucial insights into the diversity, ecology, and evolution of marine cyanobacteria and suggests the existence of other undiscovered cryptic cyanobacterial lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15973-15978
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 6


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Dinoflagellate
  • Metagenomics
  • Single-cell genomics
  • Symbiosis


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