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1.  Low-pass sequencing for microbial comparative genomics 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:3.
We studied four extremely halophilic archaea by low-pass shotgun sequencing: (1) the metabolically versatile Haloarcula marismortui; (2) the non-pigmented Natrialba asiatica; (3) the psychrophile Halorubrum lacusprofundi and (4) the Dead Sea isolate Halobaculum gomorrense. Approximately one thousand single pass genomic sequences per genome were obtained. The data were analyzed by comparative genomic analyses using the completed Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 genome as a reference. Low-pass shotgun sequencing is a simple, inexpensive, and rapid approach that can readily be performed on any cultured microbe.
As expected, the four archaeal halophiles analyzed exhibit both bacterial and eukaryotic characteristics as well as uniquely archaeal traits. All five halophiles exhibit greater than sixty percent GC content and low isoelectric points (pI) for their predicted proteins. Multiple insertion sequence (IS) elements, often involved in genome rearrangements, were identified in H. lacusprofundi and H. marismortui. The core biological functions that govern cellular and genetic mechanisms of H. sp. NRC-1 appear to be conserved in these four other halophiles. Multiple TATA box binding protein (TBP) and transcription factor IIB (TFB) homologs were identified from most of the four shotgunned halophiles. The reconstructed molecular tree of all five halophiles shows a large divergence between these species, but with the closest relationship being between H. sp. NRC-1 and H. lacusprofundi.
Despite the diverse habitats of these species, all five halophiles share (1) high GC content and (2) low protein isoelectric points, which are characteristics associated with environmental exposure to UV radiation and hypersalinity, respectively. Identification of multiple IS elements in the genome of H. lacusprofundi and H. marismortui suggest that genome structure and dynamic genome reorganization might be similar to that previously observed in the IS-element rich genome of H. sp. NRC-1. Identification of multiple TBP and TFB homologs in these four halophiles are consistent with the hypothesis that different types of complex transcriptional regulation may occur through multiple TBP-TFB combinations in response to rapidly changing environmental conditions. Low-pass shotgun sequence analyses of genomes permit extensive and diverse analyses, and should be generally useful for comparative microbial genomics.
PMCID: PMC331400  PMID: 14718067
2.  Novel Insights into the Diversity of Catabolic Metabolism from Ten Haloarchaeal Genomes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20237.
The extremely halophilic archaea are present worldwide in saline environments and have important biotechnological applications. Ten complete genomes of haloarchaea are now available, providing an opportunity for comparative analysis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We report here the comparative analysis of five newly sequenced haloarchaeal genomes with five previously published ones. Whole genome trees based on protein sequences provide strong support for deep relationships between the ten organisms. Using a soft clustering approach, we identified 887 protein clusters present in all halophiles. Of these core clusters, 112 are not found in any other archaea and therefore constitute the haloarchaeal signature. Four of the halophiles were isolated from water, and four were isolated from soil or sediment. Although there are few habitat-specific clusters, the soil/sediment halophiles tend to have greater capacity for polysaccharide degradation, siderophore synthesis, and cell wall modification. Halorhabdus utahensis and Haloterrigena turkmenica encode over forty glycosyl hydrolases each, and may be capable of breaking down naturally occurring complex carbohydrates. H. utahensis is specialized for growth on carbohydrates and has few amino acid degradation pathways. It uses the non-oxidative pentose phosphate pathway instead of the oxidative pathway, giving it more flexibility in the metabolism of pentoses.
These new genomes expand our understanding of haloarchaeal catabolic pathways, providing a basis for further experimental analysis, especially with regard to carbohydrate metabolism. Halophilic glycosyl hydrolases for use in biofuel production are more likely to be found in halophiles isolated from soil or sediment.
PMCID: PMC3102087  PMID: 21633497
3.  His1, an Archaeal Virus of the Fuselloviridae Family That Infects Haloarcula hispanica 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(11):9392-9395.
A novel archaeal virus, His1, was isolated from hypersaline waters in southeastern Australia. It was lytic, grew only on Haloarcula hispanica (titers of up to 1011 PFU/ml), and displayed a lemon-shaped morphology (74 by 44 nm) previously reported only for a virus of the extreme thermophiles (SSV1). The density of His1 was approximately 1.28 g/ml, similar to that of SSV1 (1.24 g/ml). Purified particles were resistant to low salt concentrations. The genome was linear, double-stranded DNA of 14.9 kb, similar to the genome of SSV1 (15.5 kb). Morphologically, this isolate clearly belongs to the recently proposed Fuselloviridae family of archaeal viruses. It is the first member of this family from the extremely halophilic archaea, and its host, H. hispanica, can be readily manipulated genetically.
PMCID: PMC110367  PMID: 9765495
4.  Transformation of members of the genus Haloarcula with shuttle vectors based on Halobacterium halobium and Haloferax volcanii plasmid replicons. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(3):1076-1080.
We have stably transformed both Haloarcula vallismortis and Haloarcula hispanica with the halobacterium-Escherichia coli shuttle vectors pWL102 (based on the Haloferax volcanii pHV2 replicon) and pUBP2 (based on the Halobacterium halobium pHH1 replicon). Haloferax volcanii, Halobacterium halobium, and Haloarcula vailismortis are equally distant from one another and span the phylogenetic depth of the halophilic Archaea; thus, these vectors may be generally useful for the halophiles. Both Haloarcula vallismortis and Haloarcula hispanica exhibit previously unreported complex life cycles and are therefore significant as genetically approachable models of cellular differentiation within the Archaea.
PMCID: PMC206205  PMID: 1732202
5.  Microbial Diversity of the Brine-Seawater Interface of the Kebrit Deep, Red Sea, Studied via 16S rRNA Gene Sequences and Cultivation Methods 
The brine-seawater interface of the Kebrit Deep, northern Red Sea, was investigated for the presence of microorganisms using phylogenetic analysis combined with cultivation methods. Under strictly anaerobic culture conditions, novel halophiles were isolated. The new rod-shaped isolates belong to the halophilic genus Halanaerobium and are the first representatives of the genus obtained from deep-sea, anaerobic brine pools. Within the genus Halanaerobium, they represent new species which grow chemoorganotrophically at NaCl concentrations ranging from 5 to 34%. The cellular fatty acid compositions are consistent with those of other Halanaerobium representatives, showing unusually large amounts of Δ7 and Δ11 16:1 fatty acids. Phylogenetic analysis of the brine-seawater interface sample revealed the presence of various bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences dominated by cultivated members of the bacterial domain, with the majority affiliated with the genus Halanaerobium. The new Halanaerobium 16S rRNA clone sequences showed the highest similarity (99.9%) to the sequence of isolate KT-8-13 from the Kebrit Deep brine. In this initial survey, our polyphasic approach demonstrates that novel halophiles thrive in the anaerobic, deep-sea brine pool of the Kebrit Deep, Red Sea. They may contribute significantly to the anaerobic degradation of organic matter enriched at the brine-seawater interface.
PMCID: PMC92984  PMID: 11425725
6.  Complete genome sequence of Halomicrobium mukohataei type strain (arg-2T) 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2009;1(3):270-277.
Halomicrobium mukohataei (Ihara et al. 1997) Oren et al. 2002 is the type species of the genus Halomicrobium. It is of phylogenetic interest because of its isolated location within the large euryarchaeal family Halobacteriaceae. H. mukohataei is an extreme halophile that grows essentially aerobically, but can also grow anaerobically under a change of morphology and with nitrate as electron acceptor. The strain, whose genome is described in this report, is a free-living, motile, Gram-negative euryarchaeon, originally isolated from Salinas Grandes in Jujuy, Andes highlands, Argentina. Its genome contains three genes for the 16S rRNA that differ from each other by up to 9%. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the complete genome sequence and annotation. This is the first completed genome sequence from the poorly populated genus Halomicrobium, and the 3,332,349 bp long genome (chromosome and one plasmid) with its 3416 protein-coding and 56 RNA genes is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.
PMCID: PMC3035239  PMID: 21304667
extreme halophile; mesophile; free-living; motile; non-pathogenic; facultatively anaerobic; rod-shaped; Halobacteriaceae
7.  Microbial life at high salt concentrations: phylogenetic and metabolic diversity 
Saline Systems  2008;4:2.
Halophiles are found in all three domains of life. Within the Bacteria we know halophiles within the phyla Cyanobacteria, Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Spirochaetes, and Bacteroidetes. Within the Archaea the most salt-requiring microorganisms are found in the class Halobacteria. Halobacterium and most of its relatives require over 100–150 g/l salt for growth and structural stability. Also within the order Methanococci we encounter halophilic species. Halophiles and non-halophilic relatives are often found together in the phylogenetic tree, and many genera, families and orders have representatives with greatly different salt requirement and tolerance. A few phylogenetically coherent groups consist of halophiles only: the order Halobacteriales, family Halobacteriaceae (Euryarchaeota) and the anaerobic fermentative bacteria of the order Halanaerobiales (Firmicutes). The family Halomonadaceae (Gammaproteobacteria) almost exclusively contains halophiles. Halophilic microorganisms use two strategies to balance their cytoplasm osmotically with their medium. The first involves accumulation of molar concentrations of KCl. This strategy requires adaptation of the intracellular enzymatic machinery, as proteins should maintain their proper conformation and activity at near-saturating salt concentrations. The proteome of such organisms is highly acidic, and most proteins denature when suspended in low salt. Such microorganisms generally cannot survive in low salt media. The second strategy is to exclude salt from the cytoplasm and to synthesize and/or accumulate organic 'compatible' solutes that do not interfere with enzymatic activity. Few adaptations of the cells' proteome are needed, and organisms using the 'organic-solutes-in strategy' often adapt to a surprisingly broad salt concentration range. Most halophilic Bacteria, but also the halophilic methanogenic Archaea use such organic solutes. A variety of such solutes are known, including glycine betaine, ectoine and other amino acid derivatives, sugars and sugar alcohols. The 'high-salt-in strategy' is not limited to the Halobacteriaceae. The Halanaerobiales (Firmicutes) also accumulate salt rather than organic solutes. A third, phylogenetically unrelated organism accumulates KCl: the red extremely halophilic Salinibacter (Bacteroidetes), recently isolated from saltern crystallizer brines. Analysis of its genome showed many points of resemblance with the Halobacteriaceae, probably resulting from extensive horizontal gene transfer. The case of Salinibacter shows that more unusual types of halophiles may be waiting to be discovered.
PMCID: PMC2329653  PMID: 18412960
8.  Characterization of Halorubrum sfaxense sp. nov., a New Halophilic Archaeon Isolated from the Solar Saltern of Sfax in Tunisia 
An extremely halophilic archaeon, strain ETD6, was isolated from a marine solar saltern in Sfax, Tunisia. Analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequence showed that the isolate was phylogenetically related to species of the genus Halorubrum among the family Halobacteriaceae, with a close relationship to Hrr. xinjiangense (99.77% of identity). However, value for DNA-DNA hybridization between strain ETD6 and Hrr.xinjiangense were about 24.5%. The G+C content of the genomic DNA was 65.1 mol% (T(m)). Strain ETD6 grew in 15–35% (w/v) NaCl. The temperature and pH ranges for growth were 20–55°C and 6–9, respectively. Optimal growth occurred at 25% NaCl, 37°C, and pH 7.4. The results of the DNA hybridization against Hrr. xinjiangense and physiological and biochemical tests allowed genotypic and phenotypic differentiation of strain ETD6 from other Hrr. species. Therefore, strain ETD6 represents a novel species of the genus Halorubrum, for which the name Hrr. sfaxense sp. nov. is proposed. The Genbank EMBL-EBI accession number is GU724599.
PMCID: PMC3132631  PMID: 21754938
9.  Complete genome sequence of Haloterrigena turkmenica type strain (4kT) 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2010;2(1):107-116.
Haloterrigena turkmenica (Zvyagintseva and Tarasov 1987) Ventosa et al. 1999, comb. nov. is the type species of the genus Haloterrigena in the euryarchaeal family Halobacteriaceae. It is of phylogenetic interest because of the yet unclear position of the genera Haloterrigena and Natrinema within the Halobacteriaceae, which created some taxonomic problems historically. H. turkmenica, was isolated from sulfate saline soil in Turkmenistan, is a relatively fast growing, chemoorganotrophic, carotenoid-containing, extreme halophile, requiring at least 2 M NaCl for growth. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the complete genome sequence, and annotation. This is the first complete genome sequence of the genus Haloterrigena, but the eighth genome sequence from a member of the family Halobacteriaceae. The 5,440,782 bp genome (including six plasmids) with its 5,287 protein-coding and 63 RNA genes is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.
PMCID: PMC3035258  PMID: 21304683
extreme halophile; thermophile; free-living; aerobic; non-pathogenic; carotenoids-containing; Halobacteriaceae; GEBA
10.  Phylogenetic analysis of Group I marine archaeal rRNA sequences emphasizes the hidden diversity within the primary group Archaea 
Archaea form one of the three primary groups of extant life and are commonly associated with the extreme environments which many of their members inhabit. Currently, the Archaea are classified into two kingdoms, Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota, based on phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequences. Molecular techniques allowing the retrieval and analysis of rRNA sequences from diverse environments are increasing our knowledge of archaeal diversity. This report describes the presence of marine Archaea in north-east Atlantic waters. Quantitative estimates indicated that the marine Archaea constitute 8 per cent of the total prokaryotic rRNA in Irish coastal waters. Phylogenetic analysis of the archaeal rRNA gene sequences revealed sufficient genetic diversity within Archaea to indicate that the current two-kingdom classification of Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota is restrictive.
PMCID: PMC1688723
Archaebacteria Phylogeny Microbial Diversity Molecular Ecology Archaea
11.  Intragenomic Heterogeneity and Intergenomic Recombination among Haloarchaeal rRNA Genes 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(12):3980-3990.
More than one copy of rRNA operons, which code for both the small-subunit (SSU) and large-subunit (LSU) rRNA, are often found in prokaryotes. It is generally assumed that all rRNA operons within a single cell are almost identical. A notable exception is the extremely halophilic archaeal genus Haloarcula, most species of which are known to harbor highly divergent rRNA operons that differ at ∼5% of the nucleotide positions in the SSU gene and at 1 to 2% of the nucleotide positions in the LSU gene. We report that such intragenomic heterogeneity is not unique to Haloarcula, as high levels of intragenomic sequence variation have been observed for the SSU genes of two other genera of extreme halophiles, Halosimplex and Natrinema. To investigate this in detail, the two rRNA operons of Halosimplex carlsbadense and the four operons of Natrinema sp. strain XA3-1 were cloned and completely sequenced. The SSU and LSU genes of H. carlsbadense show the highest levels of intragenomic heterogeneity observed so far in archaea (6.7 and 2.6%). The operons of Natrinema sp. strain XA3-1 have additional unusual characteristics, such as identical internal transcribed spacers, while one of four SSU genes is 5% divergent and all LSU genes differ from each other by 0.9 to 1.9%. The heterogeneity among the Natrinema sp. strain XA3-1 LSU genes is localized in hot spots, and one of these regions is shown to be the result of a recombination event with a distantly related halophile. This is the first example of interspecies recombination between rRNA genes in archaea, and the recombination occurred over one of the largest phylogenetic distances ever reported for such an event. We suggest that intragenomic heterogeneity of rRNA operons is an ancient and stable trait in several lineages of the Halobacteriales. The impact of this phenomenon on the taxonomy of extremely halophilic archaea is discussed.
PMCID: PMC419955  PMID: 15175312
12.  Microbial and Chemical Characterization of Underwater Fresh Water Springs in the Dead Sea 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38319.
Due to its extreme salinity and high Mg concentration the Dead Sea is characterized by a very low density of cells most of which are Archaea. We discovered several underwater fresh to brackish water springs in the Dead Sea harboring dense microbial communities. We provide the first characterization of these communities, discuss their possible origin, hydrochemical environment, energetic resources and the putative biogeochemical pathways they are mediating. Pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and community fingerprinting methods showed that the spring community originates from the Dead Sea sediments and not from the aquifer. Furthermore, it suggested that there is a dense Archaeal community in the shoreline pore water of the lake. Sequences of bacterial sulfate reducers, nitrifiers iron oxidizers and iron reducers were identified as well. Analysis of white and green biofilms suggested that sulfide oxidation through chemolitotrophy and phototrophy is highly significant. Hyperspectral analysis showed a tight association between abundant green sulfur bacteria and cyanobacteria in the green biofilms. Together, our findings show that the Dead Sea floor harbors diverse microbial communities, part of which is not known from other hypersaline environments. Analysis of the water’s chemistry shows evidence of microbial activity along the path and suggests that the springs supply nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter to the microbial communities in the Dead Sea. The underwater springs are a newly recognized water source for the Dead Sea. Their input of microorganisms and nutrients needs to be considered in the assessment of possible impact of dilution events of the lake surface waters, such as those that will occur in the future due to the intended establishment of the Red Sea−Dead Sea water conduit.
PMCID: PMC3367964  PMID: 22679498
13.  Diversity and evolution of multiple orc/cdc6-adjacent replication origins in haloarchaea 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:478.
While multiple replication origins have been observed in archaea, considerably less is known about their evolutionary processes. Here, we performed a comparative analysis of the predicted (proved in part) orc/cdc6-associated replication origins in 15 completely sequenced haloarchaeal genomes to investigate the diversity and evolution of replication origins in halophilic Archaea.
Multiple orc/cdc6-associated replication origins were predicted in all of the analyzed haloarchaeal genomes following the identification of putative ORBs (origin recognition boxes) that are associated with orc/cdc6 genes. Five of these predicted replication origins in Haloarcula hispanica were experimentally confirmed via autonomous replication activities. Strikingly, several predicted replication origins in H. hispanica and Haloarcula marismortui are located in the distinct regions of their highly homologous chromosomes, suggesting that these replication origins might have been introduced as parts of new genomic content. A comparison of the origin-associated Orc/Cdc6 homologs and the corresponding predicted ORB elements revealed that the replication origins in a given haloarchaeon are quite diverse, while different haloarchaea can share a few conserved origins. Phylogenetic and genomic context analyses suggested that there is an original replication origin (oriC1) that was inherited from the ancestor of archaea, and several other origins were likely evolved and/or translocated within the haloarchaeal species.
This study provides detailed information about the diversity of multiple orc/cdc6-associated replication origins in haloarchaeal genomes, and provides novel insight into the evolution of multiple replication origins in Archaea.
PMCID: PMC3528665  PMID: 22978470
14.  Metabolism of halophilic archaea 
Extremophiles   2008;12(2):177-196.
In spite of their common hypersaline environment, halophilic archaea are surprisingly different in their nutritional demands and metabolic pathways. The metabolic diversity of halophilic archaea was investigated at the genomic level through systematic metabolic reconstruction and comparative analysis of four completely sequenced species: Halobacterium salinarum, Haloarcula marismortui, Haloquadratum walsbyi, and the haloalkaliphile Natronomonas pharaonis. The comparative study reveals different sets of enzyme genes amongst halophilic archaea, e.g. in glycerol degradation, pentose metabolism, and folate synthesis. The carefully assessed metabolic data represent a reliable resource for future system biology approaches as it also links to current experimental data on (halo)archaea from the literature.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-008-0138-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2262144  PMID: 18278431
Metabolism; Archaea; Haloarchaea; Halobacterium salinarum; Pathway database; Metabolic pathways; Enzymes; Comparative genomics
15.  Fungal life in the extremely hypersaline water of the Dead Sea: first records. 
The first report, to our knowledge, on the occurrence of filamentous fungi in the hypersaline (340 g salt l-1) Dead Sea is presented. Three species of filamentous fungi from surface water samples of the Dead Sea were isolated: Gymnascella marismortui (Ascomycota), which is described as a new species, Ulocladium chlamydosporum and Penicillium westlingii (Deuteromycota). G. marismortui and U. chlamydosporum grew on media containing up to 50% Dead Sea water. G. marismortui was found to be an obligate halophile growing optimally in the presence of 0.5-2 M NaCl or 10 30% (by volume) of Dead Sea water. Isolated cultures did not grow on agar media without salt, but grew on agar prepared with up to 50% Dead Sea water. This suggests that they may be adapted to life in the extremely stressful hypersaline Dead Sea.
PMCID: PMC1689213  PMID: 9721690
16.  Anaerobic bacteria from hypersaline environments. 
Microbiological Reviews  1994;58(1):27-38.
Strictly anaerobic halophiles, namely fermentative, sulfate-reducing, homoacetogenic, phototrophic, and methanogenic bacteria are involved in the oxidation of organic carbon in hypersaline environments. To date, six anaerobic fermentative genera, containing nine species, have been described. Two of them are homoacetogens. Six species belong to the family Haloanaerobiaceae, as indicated by their unique 16S rRNA oligonucleotide sequences. Desulfohalobium retbaense and Desulfovibrio halophilus represent the only two moderately halophilic sulfate reducers so far reported. Among anoxygenic phototrophic anaerobes, a few purple bacteria with optimal growth at salinities between 6 and 11% NaCl have been isolated from hypersaline habitats. They belong to the genera Rhodospirillum, Chromatium, Thiocapsa, and Ectothiorhodospira. The commonest organisms isolated so far are Chromatium salexigens, Thiocapsa halophila, and Rhodospirillum salinarum. Extremely halophilic purple bacteria have most commonly been isolated from alkaline brines and require about 20 to 25% NaCl for optimal growth. They belong to the family Ectothiorodhospiraceae. Their osmoregulation involves synthesis or uptake of compatible solutes such as glycine-betaine that accumulate in their cytoplasm. The existence of methanogens in hypersaline environments is related to the presence of noncompetitive substrates such as methylamines, which originate mainly from the breakdown of osmoregulatory amines. Methanogenesis probably does not contribute to the mineralization of carbohydrates at NaCl concentrations higher than 15%. Above this concentration, sulfate reduction is probably the main way to oxidize H2 (although at rates too low to use up all the H2 formed) and occupies a terminal function kn the degradation of carbohydrates. Three genera and five species of halophilic methylotrophic methanogens have been reported. A bloom of phototrophic bacteria in the marine salterns of Salins-de-Giraud, located on the Mediterranean French coast in the Rhone Delta, is also described.
PMCID: PMC372951  PMID: 8177169
17.  Isolation and characterization of a novel strain of Natrinema containing a bop gene*  
A novel member of extremely halophilic archaea, strain AJ2, was isolated from Ayakekum Lake located in Altun Mountain National Nature Reserve of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. The strain AJ2 requires at least 10% (w/v) NaCl and grows 10% to 30% (optimum at 20%). Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rDNA sequence comparison revealed that strain AJ2 clustered to three Natrinema species with less than 97.7% sequence similarities, suggesting AJ2 is a novel member of Natrinema. A bacteriorhodopsin-encoding (bop) gene was subsequently detected in the AJ2 genome using the polymerase chain reaction technique. The cloning and sequencing of a 401 base pairs fragment indicated the deduced amino acid sequence of bop from AJ2 is different from that reported for bacteriorhodopsins. This is the first reported detection of a bop gene in Natrinema.
PMCID: PMC1389630  PMID: 15633251
Halophilic archaea; Phylogeny; Bacteriorhodopsin
18.  New, Closely Related Haloarchaeal Viral Elements with Different Nucleic Acid Types▿ ‡  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(7):3682-3689.
During the search for haloarchaeal viruses, we isolated and characterized a new pleomorphic lipid-containing virus, Haloarcula hispanica pleomorphic virus 1 (HHPV-1), that infects the halophilic archaeon Haloarcula hispanica. The virus contains a circular double-stranded DNA genome of 8,082 bp in size. The organization of the genome shows remarkable synteny and amino acid sequence similarity to the genome and predicted proteins of the halovirus HRPV-1, a pleomorphic single-stranded DNA virus that infects a halophilic archaeon Halorubrum sp. Analysis of the two halovirus sequences, as well as the entire nucleotide sequence of the 10.8-kb pHK2-plasmid and a 12.6-kb chromosomal region in Haloferax volcanii, allows us to suggest a new group of closely related viruses with genomes of either single-stranded or double-stranded DNA. Currently, closely related viruses are considered to have the same genome type. Our observation clearly contradicts this categorization and indicates that we should reconsider the way we classify viruses. Our results also provide a new example of related viruses where the viral structural proteins have not diverged as much as the proteins associated with genome replication. This result further strengthens the proposal for higher-order classification to be based on virion architecture rather than on genome type or replication mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2838124  PMID: 20089654
19.  Distribution and Diversity of Archaea Corresponding to the Limnological Cycle of a Hypersaline Stratified Lake (Solar Lake, Sinai, Egypt) 
The vertical and seasonal distribution and diversity of archaeal sequences was investigated in a hypersaline, stratified, monomictic lake, Solar Lake, Sinai, Egypt, during the limnological development of stratification and mixing. Archaeal sequences were studied via phylogenetic analysis of 16S rDNA sequences as well as denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis. The 165 clones studied were grouped into four phylogenetically different clusters. Most of the clones isolated from both the aerobic epilimnion and the sulfide-rich hypolimnion were defined as cluster I, belonging to the Halobacteriaceae family. The three additional clusters were all isolated from the anaerobic hypolimnion. Cluster II is phylogenetically located between the genera Methanobacterium and Methanococcus. Clusters III and IV relate to two previously documented groups of uncultured euryarchaeota, remotely related to the genus Thermoplasma. No crenarchaeota were found in the water column of the Solar Lake. The archaeal community in the Solar Lake under both stratified and mixed conditions was dominated by halobacteria in salinities higher than 10%. During stratification, additional clusters, some of which may possibly relate to uncultured halophilic methanogens, were found in the sulfide- and methane-rich hypolimnion.
PMCID: PMC92144  PMID: 10919780
20.  Diversity and Distribution of Methanotrophic Archaea at Cold Seeps†  
In this study we investigated by using 16S rRNA-based methods the distribution and biomass of archaea in samples from (i) sediments above outcropping methane hydrate at Hydrate Ridge (Cascadia margin off Oregon) and (ii) massive microbial mats enclosing carbonate reefs (Crimea area, Black Sea). The archaeal diversity was low in both locations; there were only four (Hydrate Ridge) and five (Black Sea) different phylogenetic clusters of sequences, most of which belonged to the methanotrophic archaea (ANME). ANME group 2 (ANME-2) sequences were the most abundant and diverse sequences at Hydrate Ridge, whereas ANME-1 sequences dominated the Black Sea mats. Other seep-specific sequences belonged to the newly defined group ANME-3 (related to Methanococcoides spp.) and to the Crenarchaeota of marine benthic group B. Quantitative analysis of the samples by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) showed that ANME-1 and ANME-2 co-occurred at the cold seep sites investigated. At Hydrate Ridge the surface sediments were dominated by aggregates consisting of ANME-2 and members of the Desulfosarcina-Desulfococcus branch (DSS) (ANME-2/DSS aggregates), which accounted for >90% of the total cell biomass. The numbers of ANME-1 cells increased strongly with depth; these cells accounted 1% of all single cells at the surface and more than 30% of all single cells (5% of the total cells) in 7- to 10-cm sediment horizons that were directly above layers of gas hydrate. In the Black Sea microbial mats ANME-1 accounted for about 50% of all cells. ANME-2/DSS aggregates occurred in microenvironments within the mat but accounted for only 1% of the total cells. FISH probes for the ANME-2a and ANME-2c subclusters were designed based on a comparative 16S rRNA analysis. In Hydrate Ridge sediments ANME-2a/DSS and ANME-2c/DSS aggregates differed significantly in morphology and abundance. The relative abundance values for these subgroups were remarkably different at Beggiatoa sites (80% ANME-2a, 20% ANME-2c) and Calyptogena sites (20% ANME-2a, 80% ANME-2c), indicating that there was preferential selection of the groups in the two habitats. These variations in the distribution, diversity, and morphology of methanotrophic consortia are discussed with respect to the presence of microbial ecotypes, niche formation, and biogeography.
PMCID: PMC544223  PMID: 15640223
21.  Conserved sequence elements involved in regulation of ribosomal protein gene expression in halophilic archaea. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(15):4737-4741.
A region of the Haloferax volcanii genome encoding ribosomal proteins L11e, L1e, L10e, and L12e was cloned and sequenced, and the transcripts derived from the cluster were characterized. Flanking and noncoding regions of the sequence were analyzed phylogenetically by comparison with the homologous sequences from two other halophilic archaea, i.e., Halobacterium cutirubrum and Haloarcula marismortui. Motifs, identified by high-level sequence conservation, include both transcriptional and translational regulatory elements and other elements of unknown function.
PMCID: PMC178250  PMID: 8755911
22.  Intragenomic Heterogeneity of 16S rRNA Genes Causes Overestimation of Prokaryotic Diversity 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(19):5962-5969.
Ever since Carl Woese introduced the use of 16S rRNA genes for determining the phylogenetic relationships of prokaryotes, this method has been regarded as the “gold standard” in both microbial phylogeny and ecology studies. However, intragenomic heterogeneity within 16S rRNA genes has been reported in many investigations and is believed to bias the estimation of prokaryotic diversity. In the current study, 2,013 completely sequenced genomes of bacteria and archaea were analyzed and intragenomic heterogeneity was found in 952 genomes (585 species), with 87.5% of the divergence detected being below the 1% level. In particular, some extremophiles (thermophiles and halophiles) were found to harbor highly divergent 16S rRNA genes. Overestimation caused by 16S rRNA gene intragenomic heterogeneity was evaluated at different levels using the full-length and partial 16S rRNA genes usually chosen as targets for pyrosequencing. The result indicates that, at the unique level, full-length 16S rRNA genes can produce an overestimation of as much as 123.7%, while at the 3% level, an overestimation of 12.9% for the V6 region may be introduced. Further analysis showed that intragenomic heterogeneity tends to concentrate in specific positions, with the V1 and V6 regions suffering the most intragenomic heterogeneity and the V4 and V5 regions suffering the least intragenomic heterogeneity in bacteria. This is the most up-to-date overview of the diversity of 16S rRNA genes within prokaryotic genomes. It not only provides general guidance on how much overestimation can be introduced when applying 16S rRNA gene-based methods, due to its intragenomic heterogeneity, but also recommends that, for bacteria, this overestimation be minimized using primers targeting the V4 and V5 regions.
PMCID: PMC3811346  PMID: 23872556
23.  Proteomic Properties Reveal Phyloecological Clusters of Archaea 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48231.
In this study, we propose a novel way to describe the variety of environmental adaptations of Archaea. We have clustered 57 Archaea by using a non-redundant set of proteomic features, and verified that the clusters correspond to environmental adaptations to the archaeal habitats. The first cluster consists dominantly of hyperthermophiles and hyperthermoacidophilic aerobes. The second cluster joins together halophilic and extremely halophilic Archaea, while the third cluster contains mesophilic (mostly methanogenic) Archaea together with thermoacidophiles. The non-redundant subset of proteomic features was found to consist of five features: the ratio of charged residues to uncharged, average protein size, normalized frequency of beta-sheet, normalized frequency of extended structure and number of hydrogen bond donors. We propose this clustering to be termed phyloecological clustering. This approach could give additional insights into relationships among archaeal species that may be hidden by sole phylogenetic analysis.
PMCID: PMC3485053  PMID: 23133575
24.  Porticoccus hydrocarbonoclasticus sp. nov., an Aromatic Hydrocarbon-Degrading Bacterium Identified in Laboratory Cultures of Marine Phytoplankton 
A marine bacterium, designated strain MCTG13d, was isolated from a laboratory culture of the dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedrum CCAP1121/2 by enrichment with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as the sole carbon source. Based on 16S rRNA gene sequence comparisons, the strain was most closely related to Porticoccus litoralis IMCC2115T (96.5%) and to members of the genera Microbulbifer (91.4 to 93.7%) and Marinimicrobium (90.4 to 92.0%). Phylogenetic trees showed that the strain clustered in a distinct phyletic line in the class Gammaproteobacteria for which P. litoralis is presently the sole cultured representative. The strain was strictly aerobic, rod shaped, Gram negative, and halophilic. Notably, it was able to utilize hydrocarbons as sole sources of carbon and energy, whereas sugars did not serve as growth substrates. The predominant isoprenoid quinone of strain MCTG13d was Q-8, and the dominant fatty acids were C16:1ω7c, C18:1ω7c, and C16:0. DNA G+C content for the isolate was 54.9 ± 0.42 mol%. Quantitative PCR primers targeting the 16S rRNA gene of this strain showed that this organism was common in other laboratory cultures of marine phytoplankton. On the basis of phenotypic and genotypic characteristics, strain MCTG13d represents a novel species of Porticoccus, for which the name Porticoccus hydrocarbonoclasticus sp. nov. is proposed. The discovery of this highly specialized hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium living in association with marine phytoplankton suggests that phytoplankton represent a previously unrecognized biotope of novel bacterial taxa that degrade hydrocarbons in the ocean.
PMCID: PMC3264135  PMID: 22139001
25.  Biochemical and serological evidence for an RNase E-like activity in halophilic Archaea. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(4):1180-1185.
Endoribonuclease RNase E appears to control the rate-limiting step that mediates the degradation of many mRNA species in bacteria. In this work, an RNase E-like activity in Archaea is described. An endoribonucleolytic activity from the extreme halophile Haloarcula marismortui showed the same RNA substrate specificity as the Escherichia coli RNase E and cross-reacted with a monoclonal antibody raised against E. coli RNase E. The archaeal RNase E activity was partially purified from the extreme halophilic cells and shown, contrary to the E. coli enzyme, to require a high salt concentration for cleavage specificity and stability. These data indicate that a halophilic RNA processing enzyme can specifically recognize and cleave mRNA from E. coli in an extremely salty environment (3 M KCI). Having recently been shown in mammalian cells (A. Wennborg, B. Sohlberg, D. Angerer, G. Klein, and A. von Gabain, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92:7322-7326, 1995), RNase E-like activity has now been identified in all three evolutionary domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya. This strongly suggests that mRNA decay mechanisms are highly conserved despite quite different environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC178814  PMID: 9023200

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