Knowledge on the evolution of antioxidant systems in cyanobacteria is crucial for elucidating the cause and consequence of the rise of atmospheric oxygen in the Earth’s history. In this study, to elucidate the origin and evolution of cyanobacterial antioxidant enzymes, we analyzed the occurrence of genes encoding four types of superoxide dismutases and three types of catalases in 85 complete cyanobacterial genomes, followed by phylogenetic analyses. We found that Fe superoxide dismutase (FeSOD), Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), and Mn catalase (MnCat) are widely distributed among modern cyanobacteria, whereas CuZn superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), bifunctional catalase (KatG), and monofunctional catalase (KatE) are less common. Ni superoxide dismutase (NiSOD) is distributed among marine Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus species. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that bacterial MnSOD evolved from cambialistic Fe/MnSOD before the diversification of major bacterial lineages. The analyses suggested that FeSOD evolved from MnSOD before the origin of cyanobacteria. MnCat also evolved in the early stages of bacterial evolution, predating the emergence of cyanobacteria. KatG, KatE, and NiSOD appeared 2.3–2.5 billion years ago. Thus, almost all cyanobacterial antioxidant enzymes emerged before or during the rise of atmospheric oxygen. The loss and appearance of these enzymes in marine cyanobacteria may be also related to the change in the metal concentration induced by the increased oxygen concentration in the ocean.
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