The circular genome sequence of the chemolithoautotrophic euryarchaeon Methanothermobacter marburgensis, with 1,639,135 bp, was determined and compared with that of Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus. The genomes of the two model methanogens differ substantially in protein coding sequences, in insertion sequence (IS)-like elements, and in clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) loci.
Methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR) from methanogenic archaea catalyzes the final step in the biological synthesis of methane. Using coenzyme B (CoBSH) as the two-electron donor, MCR reduces methyl-coenzyme M (methyl-SCoM) to methane and the mixed disulfide, CoB-S-S-CoM. MCR contains Coenzyme F430, an essential redox-active nickel tetrahydrocorphin at its active site. The active form of MCR (MCRred1) contains Ni(I)-F430. When 3-bromopropane sulfonate (BPS) is incubated with MCRred1, an alkyl-Ni(III) species is formed that elicits the MCRPS EPR signal. Here we used EPR and UV-visible spectroscopy and transient kinetics to study the reaction between MCR from Methanothermobacter marburgensis and a series of brominated carboxylic acids, with chain lengths from 4 to 16 carbons long. All of these compounds give rise to an alkyl-Ni intermediate with an EPR signal similar to that of the MCRPS species. Reaction of the alkyl-Ni(III) adduct, formed from brominated acids with 8 or less total carbons, with HSCoM as nucleophile at pH 10.0 results in the formation of a thioether coupled to regeneration of the active MCRred1 state. When reacted with 4-bromobutyrate, MCRred1 forms the alkyl-Ni(III) MCRXA state and then, surprisingly, undergoes “self-reactivation” to regenerate the Ni(I) MCRred1 state and a bromocarboxy ester. The results demonstrate an unexpected reactivity and flexibility of the MCR active site to accommodate a broad range of substrates, which act as molecular rulers for the substrate channel in MCR.
To understand the physiological basis of methanogenic archaea living on interspecies H2 transfer, the protein expression of a hydrogenotrophic methanogen, Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus strain ΔH, was investigated in both pure culture and syntrophic coculture with an anaerobic butyrate oxidizer Syntrophothermus lipocalidus strain TGB-C1 as an H2 supplier. Comparative proteomic analysis showed that global protein expression of methanogen cells in the model coculture was substantially different from that of pure cultured cells. In brief, in syntrophic coculture, although methanogenesis-driven energy generation appeared to be maintained by shifting the pathway to the alternative methyl coenzyme M reductase isozyme I and cofactor F420-dependent process, the machinery proteins involved in carbon fixation, amino acid synthesis, and RNA/DNA metabolisms tended to be down-regulated, indicating restrained cell growth rather than vigorous proliferation. In addition, our proteome analysis revealed that α subunits of proteasome were differentially acetylated between the two culture conditions. Since the relevant modification has been suspected to regulate proteolytic activity of the proteasome, the global protein turnover rate could be controlled under syntrophic growth conditions. To our knowledge, the present study is the first report on N-acetylation of proteasome subunits in methanogenic archaea. These results clearly indicated that physiological adaptation of hydrogenotrophic methanogens to syntrophic growth is more complicated than that of hitherto proposed.
Heterodisulfide reductase (HDR) of methanogenic archaea with its active-site [4Fe-4S] cluster catalyzes the reversible reduction of the heterodisulfide (CoM-S-S-CoB) of the methanogenic coenzyme M (CoM-SH) and coenzyme B (CoB-SH). CoM-HDR, a mechanistic-based paramagnetic intermediate generated upon half-reaction of the oxidized enzyme with CoM-SH, is a novel type of [4Fe-4S]3+ cluster with CoM-SH as a ligand. Subunit HdrB of the Methanothermobacter marburgensis HdrABC holoenzyme contains two cysteine-rich sequence motifs (CX31–39CCX35–36CXXC), designated as CCG domain in the Pfam database and conserved in many proteins. Here we present experimental evidence that the C-terminal CCG domain of HdrB binds this unusual [4Fe-4S] cluster. HdrB was produced in Escherichia coli, and an iron–sulfur cluster was subsequently inserted by in vitro reconstitution. In the oxidized state the cluster without the substrate exhibited a rhombic EPR signal (gzyx= 2.015, 1.995, and 1.950) reminiscent of the CoM-HDR signal. 57Fe ENDOR spectroscopy revealed that this paramagnetic species is a [4Fe-4S] cluster with 57Fe hyperfine couplings very similar to that of CoM-HDR. CoM-33SH resulted in a broadening of the EPR signal, and upon addition of CoM-SH the midpoint potential of the cluster was shifted to values observed for CoM-HDR, both indicating binding of CoM-SH to the cluster. Site-directed mutagenesis of all 12 cysteine residues in HdrB identified four cysteines of the C-terminal CCG domain as cluster ligands. Combined with the previous detection of CoM-HDR-like EPR signals in other CCG domain-containing proteins our data indicate a general role of the C-terminal CCG domain in coordination of this novel [4Fe-4S] cluster. In addition, Zn K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy identified an isolated Zn site with an S3(O/N)1 geometry in HdrB and the HDR holoenzyme. The N-terminal CCG domain is suggested to provide ligands to the Zn site.
Two methyl coenzyme M reductases (MCRs) encoded by the mcr and mrt operons of the hydrogenotrophic methanogen Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus ΔH are expressed in response to H2 availability. In the present study, cis elements and trans-acting factors responsible for the gene expression of MCRs were investigated by using electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and affinity particle purification. A survey of their operator regions by EMSA with protein extracts from mrt-expressing cultures restricted them to 46- and 41-bp-long mcr and mrt upstream regions, respectively. Affinity particle purification of DNA-binding proteins conjugated with putative operator regions resulted in the retrieval of a protein attributed to IMP dehydrogenase-related protein VII (IMPDH VII). IMPDH VII is predicted to have a winged helix-turn-helix DNA-binding motif and two cystathionine β-synthase domains, and it has been suspected to be an energy-sensing module. EMSA with oligonucleotide probes with unusual sequences showed that the binding site of IMPDH VII mostly overlaps the factor B-responsible element-TATA box of the mcr operon. The results presented here suggest that IMPDH VII encoded by MTH126 is a plausible candidate for the transcriptional regulator of the mcr operon in this methanogen.
In Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, oxaloacetate synthesis is a major and essential CO2-fixation reaction. This methanogenic archaeon possesses two oxaloacetate-synthesizing enzymes, pyruvate carboxylase and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase. The phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase from this organism was purified to homogeneity. The subunit size of this homotetrameric protein was 55 kDa, which is about half that of all known bacterial and eukaryotic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylases (PPCs). The NH2-terminal sequence identified this enzyme as the product of MTH943, an open reading frame with no assigned function in the genome sequence. A BLAST search did not show an obvious sequence similarity between MTH943 and known PPCs, which are generally well conserved. This is the first report of a new type of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase that we call PpcA (“A” for “archaeal”). Homologs to PpcA were present in most archaeal genomic sequences, but only in three bacterial (Clostridium perfringens, Oenococcus oeni, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides) and no eukaryotic genomes. PpcA was the only recognizable oxaloacetate-producing enzyme in Methanopyrus kandleri, a hydrothermal vent organism. Each PpcA-containing organism lacked a PPC homolog. The activity of M. thermautotrophicus PpcA was not influenced by acetyl coenzyme A and was about 50 times less sensitive to aspartate than the Escherichia coli PPC. The catalytic core (including His138, Arg587, and Gly883) of the E. coli PPC was partly conserved in PpcA, but three of four aspartate-binding residues (Lys773, Arg832, and Asn881) were not. PPCs probably evolved from PpcA through a process that added allosteric sites to the enzyme. The reverse is also equally possible.
In nature, H2- and CO2-utilizing methanogenic archaea have to couple the processes of methanogenesis and autotrophic growth under highly variable conditions with respect to the supply and concentration of their energy source, hydrogen. To study the hydrogen-dependent coupling between methanogenesis and growth, Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus was cultured in a fed-batch fermentor and in a chemostat under different 80% H2-20% CO2 gassing regimens while we continuously monitored the dissolved hydrogen partial pressures (pH2). In the fed-batch system, in which the conditions continuously changed the uptake rates by the growing biomass, the organism displayed a complex and yet defined growth behavior, comprising the consecutive lag, exponential, and linear growth phases. It was found that the in situ hydrogen concentration affected the coupling between methanogenesis and growth in at least two respects. (i) The microorganism could adopt two distinct theoretical maximal growth yields (YCH4 max), notably approximately 3 and 7 g (dry weight) of methane formed mol−1, for growth under low (pH2 < 12 kPa)- and high-hydrogen conditions, respectively. The distinct values can be understood from a theoretical analysis of the process of methanogenesis presented in the supplemental material associated with this study. (ii) The in situ hydrogen concentration affected the “specific maintenance” requirements or, more likely, the degree of proton leakage and proton slippage processes. At low pH2 values, the “specific maintenance” diminished and the specific growth yields approached YCH4 max, indicating that growth and methanogenesis became fully coupled.
Syntrophic acetate oxidation coupled with hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis is an alternative methanogenic pathway in certain thermophilic anaerobic environments such as high-temperature oil reservoirs and thermophilic biogas reactors. In these environments, the dominant thermophilic methanogens were generally related to uncultured organisms of the genus Methanothermobacter. Here we isolated two representative strains, Tm2T and HMD, from the oil sands and oil production water in the Shengli oil field in the People's Republic of China. The type strain, Tm2T, was nonmotile and stained Gram positive. The cells were straight to slightly curved rods (0.3 μm in width and 2.2 to 5.9 μm in length), but some of them possessed a coccal shape connecting with the rods at the ends. Strain Tm2T grew with H2-CO2, but acetate is required. Optimum growth of strain Tm2T occurred in the presence of 0.025 g/liter NaCl at pH 6.9 and a temperature of 65°C. The G+C content of the genomic DNA was 40.1 mol% ± 1.3 mol% (by the thermal denaturation method) or 41.1 mol% (by high-performance liquid chromatography). Analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequence indicated that Tm2T was most closely related to Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus ΔHT and Methanothermobacter wolfeii VKM B-1829T (both with a sequence similarity of 96.4%). Based on these phenotypic and phylogenic characteristics, a novel species was proposed and named Methanothermobacter crinale sp. nov. The type strain is Tm2T (ACCC 00699T = JCM 17393T).
The expression of genes involved in methanogenesis in a thermophilic hydrogen-utilizing methanogen, Methanothermobacter thermoautotrophicus strain TM, was investigated both in a pure culture sufficiently supplied with H2 plus CO2 and in a coculture with an acetate-oxidizing hydrogen-producing bacterium, Thermacetogenium phaeum strain PB, in which hydrogen partial pressure was constantly kept very low (20 to 80 Pa). Northern blot analysis indicated that only the mcr gene, which encodes methyl coenzyme M reductase I (MRI), catalyzing the final step of methanogenesis, was expressed in the coculture, whereas mcr and mrt, which encodes methyl coenzyme M reductase II (MRII), the isofunctional enzyme of MRI, were expressed at the early to late stage of growth in the pure culture. In contrast to these two genes, two isofunctional genes (mtd and mth) for N5,N10-methylene-tetrahydromethanopterin dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the fourth step of methanogenesis, and two hydrogenase genes (frh and mvh) were expressed both in a pure culture and in a coculture at the early and late stages of growth. The same expression pattern was observed for Methanothermobacter thermoautotrophicus strain ΔH cocultured with a thermophilic butyrate-oxidizing syntroph, Syntrophothermus lipocalidus strain TGB-C1. Two-dimensional sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of whole proteins of M. thermoautotrophicus strain TM obtained from a pure culture and a coculture with the acetate-oxidizing syntroph and subsequent N-terminal amino acid sequence analysis confirmed that MRI and MRII were produced in the pure culture, while only MRI was produced in the coculture. These results indicate that under syntrophic growth conditions, the methanogen preferentially utilizes MRI but not MRII. Considering that hydrogenotrophic methanogens are strictly dependent for growth on hydrogen-producing fermentative microbes in the natural environment and that the hydrogen supply occurs constantly at very low concentrations compared with the supply in pure cultures in the laboratory, the results suggest that MRI is an enzyme primarily functioning in natural methanogenic ecosystems.
In situ detection of methanogens within the family Methanobacteriaceae is sometimes known to be unsuccessful due to the difficulty in permeability of oligonucleotide probes. Pseudomurein endoisopeptidase (Pei), a lytic enzyme that specifically acts on their cell walls, was applied prior to 16S rRNA-targeting fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). For this purpose, pure cultured methanogens within this family, Methanobacterium bryantii, Methanobrevibacter ruminantium, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, and Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus together with a Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus-containing syntrophic acetate-oxidizing coculture, endosymbiotic Methanobrevibacter methanogens within an anaerobic ciliate, and an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) granule were examined. Even without the Pei treatment, Methanobacterium bryantii and Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus cells are relatively well hybridized with oligonucleotide probes. However, almost none of the cells of Methanobrevibacter ruminantium, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, cocultured Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, and the endosymbiotic methanogens and the cells within UASB granule were hybridized. Pei treatment was able to increase the probe hybridization ratio in every specimen, particularly in the specimen that had shown little hybridization. Interestingly, the hybridizing signal intensity of Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus cells in coculture with an acetate-oxidizing H2-producing syntroph was significantly improved by Pei pretreatment, whereas the probe was well hybridized with the cells of pure culture of the same strain. We found that the difference is attributed to the differences in cell wall thicknesses between the two culture conditions. These results indicate that Pei treatment is effective for FISH analysis of methanogens that show impermeability to the probe.
Methanogens represent some of the most oxygen-sensitive organisms in laboratory culture. Recent studies indicate that they have developed mechanisms to deal with brief oxygen exposure. MsvR is a transcriptional regulator that has a domain architecture unique to a select group of methanogens. Here, runoff in vitro transcription assays were used to demonstrate that MsvR regulates transcription of the divergently transcribed fpaA-rlp-rub operon in Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus in addition to transcription from its own promoter. The protein products of the fpaA-rlp-rub operon have previously been implicated in oxidative stress responses in M. thermautotrophicus. Additionally, electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) and DNase I footprinting were used to confirm a binding site inferred by bioinformatic analysis. Sequence mutations within these binding sites did not significantly alter EMSA shifting patterns on longer templates but did on shorter 50-bp fragments encompassing only the region containing the binding sites. Footprinting confirmed that the regions protected for the longer mutant templates are at different positions within the intergenic region compared to those seen in the intact intergenic region. Oxidized and reduced preparations of MsvR demonstrated different EMSA binding patterns and regions of protection on the intergenic sequence, suggesting that MsvR may play a role in detecting the redox state of the cell.
A thermophilic syntrophic bacterium, Pelotomaculum thermopropionicum strain SI, was grown in a monoculture or coculture with a hydrogenotrophic methanogen, Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus strain ΔH. Microscopic observation revealed that cells of each organism were dispersed in a monoculture independent of the growth substrate. In a coculture, however, these organisms coaggregated to different degrees depending on the substrate; namely, a large fraction of the cells coaggregated when they were grown on propionate, but relatively few cells coaggregated when they were grown on ethanol or 1-propanol. Field emission-scanning electron microscopy revealed that flagellum-like filaments of SI cells played a role in making contact with ΔH cells. Microscopic observation of aggregates also showed that extracellular polymeric substance-like structures were present in intercellular spaces. In order to evaluate the importance of coaggregation for syntrophic propionate oxidation, allowable average distances between SI and ΔH cells for accomplishing efficient interspecies hydrogen transfer were calculated by using Fick's diffusion law. The allowable distance for syntrophic propionate oxidation was estimated to be approximately 2 μm, while the allowable distances for ethanol and propanol oxidation were 16 μm and 32 μm, respectively. Considering that the mean cell-to-cell distance in the randomly dispersed culture was approximately 30 μm (at a concentration in the mid-exponential growth phase of the coculture of 5 × 107 cells ml−1), it is obvious that close physical contact of these organisms by coaggregation is indispensable for efficient syntrophic propionate oxidation.
Methanothermobacter wolfeii (formerly Methanobacterium wolfei), a thermophilic methanoarchaeon whose cultures lyse upon hydrogen starvation, carries a defective prophage called ΨM100 on its chromosome. The nucleotide sequence of ΨM100 and its flanking regions was established and compared to that of the previously sequenced phage ΨM2 of Methanothermobacter marburgensis (formerly Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum Marburg). The ΨM100 genome extends over 28,798 bp, and its borders are defined by flanking 21-bp direct repeats of a pure-AT sequence, which very likely forms the core of the putative attachment site where the crossing over occurred during integration. A large fragment of 2,793 bp, IFa, apparently inserted into ΨM100 but is absent in the genome of ΨM2. The remaining part of the ΨM100 genome showed 70.8% nucleotide sequence identity to the whole genome of ΨM2. Thirty-four open reading frames (ORFs) on the forward strand and one ORF on the reverse strand were identified in the ΨM100 genome. Comparison of ΨM100-encoded ORFs to those encoded by phage ΨM2 and to other known protein sequences permitted the assignment of putative functions to some ORFs. The ORF28 protein of ΨM100 was identified as the previously known autolytic enzyme pseudomurein endoisopeptidase PeiW produced by M. wolfeii.
The removal of plants and soil to bedrock to eradicate exotic invasive plants within the Hole-in-the-Donut (HID) region, part of the Everglades National Park (Florida), presented a unique opportunity to study the redevelopment of soil and the associated microbial communities in the context of short-term primary succession and ecosystem restoration. The goal of this study was to identify relationships between soil redevelopment and activity and composition of methanogenic assemblages in HID soils. Methane production potentials indicated a general decline in methanogenic activity with restoration age. Microcosm incubations strongly suggested hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis as the most favorable pathway for methane formation in HID soils from all sites. Culture-independent techniques targeting methyl coenzyme M reductase genes (mcrA) were used to assess the dynamics of methanogenic assemblages. Clone libraries were dominated by sequences related to hydrogenotrophic methanogens of the orders Methanobacteriales and Methanococcales and suggested a general decline in the relative abundance of Methanobacteriales mcrA with time since restoration. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis indicated methanogenic assemblages remain relatively stable between wet and dry seasons. Interestingly, analysis of soils across the restoration chronosequence indicated a shift in Methanobacteriales populations with restoration age, suggesting genotypic shifts due to site-specific factors.
Cellular membrane lipids, of which phospholipids are the major
constituents, form one of the characteristic features that distinguish
Archaea from other organisms. In this study, we focused on the steps
in archaeal phospholipid synthetic pathways that generate polar lipids
such as archaetidylserine, archaetidylglycerol, and
archaetidylinositol. Only archaetidylserine synthase (ASS),
from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus,has been experimentally identified. Other enzymes have not
been fully examined. Through database searching, we detected many
archaeal hypothetical proteins that show sequence similarity to
members of the CDP alcohol phosphatidyltransferase family, such as
phosphatidylserine synthase (PSS), phosphatidylglycerol synthase (PGS)
and phosphatidylinositol synthase (PIS) derived from Bacteria and
Eukarya. The archaeal hypothetical proteins were classified into two
groups, based on the sequence similarity. Members of the first group,
including ASS from M. thermautotrophicus, were
closely related to PSS. The rough agreement between PSS homologue
distribution within Archaea and the experimentally identified
distribution of archaetidylserine suggested that the hypothetical
proteins are ASSs. We found that an open reading frame (ORF) tends to
be adjacent to that of ASS in the genome, and that the order of the
two ORFs is conserved. The sequence similarity of phosphatidylserine
decarboxylase to the product of the ORF next to the ASS gene, together
with the genomic context conservation, suggests that the ORF encodes
archaetidylserine decarboxylase, which may transform archaetidylserine
to archaetidylethanolamine. The second group of archaeal hypothetical
proteins was related to PGS and PIS. The members of this group were
subjected to molecular phylogenetic analysis, together with PGSs and
PISs and it was found that they formed two distinct clusters in the
molecular phylogenetic tree. The distribution of members of each
cluster within Archaea roughly corresponded to the experimentally
identified distribution of archaetidylglycerol or archaetidylinositol.
The molecular phylogenetic tree patterns and the correspondence to the
membrane compositions suggest that the two clusters in this group
correspond to archaetidylglycerol synthases and archaetidylinositol
synthases. No archaeal hypothetical protein with sequence similarity
to known phosphatidylcholine synthases was detected in this study.
archaetidylcholine; archaetidylglycerol; archaetidylinositol; archaetidylserine; genomic context; phylogenetic tree
We have biochemically and functionally characterized the pseudomurein cell wall-binding (PMB) domain that is present at the C-terminus of the Surface (S)-layer protein MTH719 from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus. Chemical denaturation of the protein with guanidinium hydrochloride occurred at 3.8 M. A PMB-GFP fusion protein not only binds to intact pseudomurein of methanogenic archaea, but also to spheroplasts of lysozyme-treated bacterial cells. This binding is pH dependent. At least two of the three motifs that are present in the domain are necessary for binding. Limited proteolysis revealed a possible cleavage site in the spacing sequence between motifs 1 and 2 of the PMB domain, indicating that the motif region itself is protected from proteases.
Most organisms form Cys-tRNACys, an essential component for protein synthesis, through the action of cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase (CysRS). However, the genomes of Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, and Methanopyrus kandleri do not contain a recognizable cysS gene encoding CysRS. It was reported that M. jannaschii prolyl-tRNA synthetase (C. Stathopoulos, T. Li, R. Longman, U. C. Vothknecht, H. D. Becker, M. Ibba, and D. Söll, Science 287:479-482, 2000; R. S. Lipman, K. R. Sowers, and Y. M. Hou, Biochemistry 39:7792-7798, 2000) or the M. jannaschii MJ1477 protein (C. Fabrega, M. A. Farrow, B. Mukhopadhyay, V. de Crécy-Lagard, A. R. Ortiz, and P. Schimmel, Nature 411:110-114, 2001) provides the “missing” CysRS activity for in vivo Cys-tRNACys formation. These conclusions were supported by complementation of temperature-sensitive Escherichia coli cysS(Ts) strain UQ818 with archaeal proS genes (encoding prolyl-tRNA synthetase) or with the Deinococcus radiodurans DR0705 gene, the ortholog of the MJ1477 gene. Here we show that E. coli UQ818 harbors a mutation (V27E) in CysRS; the largest differences compared to the wild-type enzyme are a fourfold increase in the Km for cysteine and a ninefold reduction in the kcat for ATP. While transformants of E. coli UQ818 with archaeal and bacterial cysS genes grew at a nonpermissive temperature, growth was also supported by elevated intracellular cysteine levels, e.g., by transformation with an E. coli cysE allele (encoding serine acetyltransferase) or by the addition of cysteine to the culture medium. An E. coli cysS deletion strain permitted a stringent complementation test; growth could be supported only by archaeal or bacterial cysS genes and not by archaeal proS genes or the D. radiodurans DR0705 gene. Construction of a D. radiodurans DR0705 deletion strain showed this gene to be dispensable. However, attempts to delete D. radiodurans cysS failed, suggesting that this is an essential Deinococcus gene. These results imply that it is not established that proS or MJ1477 gene products catalyze Cys-tRNACys synthesis in M. jannaschii. Thus, the mechanism of Cys-tRNACys formation in M. jannaschii still remains to be discovered.
Thermacetogenium phaeum is a homoacetogenic bacterium that can grow on various substrates, such as pyruvate, methanol, or H2/CO2. It can also grow on acetate if cocultured with the hydrogen-consuming methanogenic partner Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus. Enzyme activities of the CO dehydrogenase/acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) pathway (CO dehydrogenase, formate dehydrogenase, formyl tetrahydrofolate synthase, methylene tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase) were detected in cell extracts of pure cultures and of syntrophic cocultures. Mixed cell suspensions of T. phaeum and M. thermautotrophicus oxidized acetate rapidly and produced acetate after addition of H2/CO2 after a short time lag. CO dehydrogenase activity staining after native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis exhibited three oxygen-labile bands which were identical in pure culture and coculture. Protein profiles of T. phaeum cells after sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis indicated that the strain exhibited basically the same protein patterns in both pure and syntrophic culture. These results indicate that T. phaeum operates the CO dehydrogenase/acetyl-CoA pathway reversibly both in acetate oxidation and in reductive acetogenesis by using the same biochemical apparatus, although it has to couple this pathway to ATP synthesis in different ways.
The genome of Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, as a hitherto unique case, is apparently devoid of genes coding for general uracil DNA glycosylases, the universal mediators of base excision repair following hydrolytic deamination of DNA cytosine residues. We have now identified protein Mth212, a member of the ExoIII family of nucleases, as a possible initiator of DNA uracil repair in this organism. This enzyme, in addition to bearing all the enzymological hallmarks of an ExoIII homologue, is a DNA uridine endonuclease (U-endo) that nicks double-stranded DNA at the 5′-side of a 2′-d-uridine residue, irrespective of the nature of the opposing nucleotide. This type of activity has not been described before; it is absent from the ExoIII homologues of Escherichia coli, Homo sapiens and Methanosarcina mazei, all of which are equipped with uracil DNA repair glycosylases. The U-endo activity of Mth212 is served by the same catalytic center as its AP-endo activity.
We used a phylogenetic approach to analyze the evolution of
methanogenesis and methanogens. We show that 23 vertically transmitted
ribosomal proteins do not support the monophyly of methanogens, and
propose instead that there are two distantly related groups of extant
archaea that produce methane, which we have named Class I and Class
II. Based on this finding, we subsequently investigated the uniqueness
of the origin of methanogenesis by studying both the enzymes of
methanogenesis and the proteins that synthesize its specific
coenzymes. We conclude that hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis appeared
only once during evolution. Genes involved in the seven central steps
of the methanogenic reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) are
ubiquitous in methanogens and share a common history. This suggests
that, although extant methanogens produce methane from various
substrates (CO2, formate, acetate, methylated C-1
compounds), these archaea have a core of conserved enzymes that have
undergone little evolutionary change. Furthermore, this core of
methanogenesis enzymes seems to originate (as a whole) from the last
ancestor of all methanogens and does not appear to have been
horizontally transmitted to other organisms or between members of
Class I and Class II. The observation of a unique and ancestral form
of methanogenesis suggests that it was preserved in two independent
lineages, with some instances of specialization or added metabolic
flexibility. It was likely lost in the Halobacteriales,
Thermoplasmatales and Archaeoglobales. Given that fossil evidence for
methanogenesis dates back 2.8 billion years, a unique origin of this
process makes the methanogenic archaea a very ancient taxon.
The pathway of lysine biosynthesis in the methanococci has not been identified previously. A variant of the diaminopimelic acid (DAP) pathway uses diaminopimelate aminotransferase (DapL) to catalyze the direct conversion of tetrahydrodipicolinate (THDPA) to ll-DAP. Recently, the enzyme DapL (MTH52) was identified in Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus and shown to belong to the DapL1 group. Although the Methanococcus maripaludis genome lacks a gene that can be unambiguously assigned a DapL function based on sequence similarity, the open reading frame MMP1527 product shares 30% amino acid sequence identity with MTH52. A Δmmp1527 deletion mutant was constructed and found to be a lysine auxotroph, suggesting that this DapL homolog in methanococci is required for lysine biosynthesis. In cell extracts of the M. maripaludis wild-type strain, the specific activity of DapL using ll-DAP and α-ketoglutarate as substrates was 24.3 ± 2.0 nmol min−1 mg of protein−1. The gene encoding the DapL homolog in Methanocaldococcus jannaschii (MJ1391) was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli, and the protein was purified. The maximum activity of MJ1391 was observed at 70°C and pH 8.0 to 9.0. The apparent Kms of MJ1391 for ll-DAP and α-ketoglutarate were 82.8 ± 10 μM and 0.42 ± 0.02 mM, respectively. MJ1391 was not able to use succinyl-DAP or acetyl-DAP as a substrate. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that two lateral gene transfers occurred in the DapL genes, one from the archaea to the bacteria in the DapL2 group and one from the bacteria to the archaea in the DapL1 group. These results demonstrated that the DapL pathway is present in marine methanogens belonging to the Methanococcales.
The biosynthesis of archaeal ether-type glycolipids was investigated in vitro using Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus cell-free homogenates. The sole sugar moiety of glycolipids and phosphoglycolipids of the organism is the β-d-glucosyl-(1→6)-d-glucosyl (gentiobiosyl) unit. The enzyme activities of archaeol:UDP-glucose β-glucosyltransferase (monoglucosylarchaeol [MGA] synthase) and MGA:UDP-glucose β-1,6-glucosyltransferase (diglucosylarchaeol [DGA] synthase) were found in the methanoarchaeon. The synthesis of DGA is probably a two-step glucosylation: (i) archaeol + UDP-glucose → MGA + UDP, and (ii) MGA + UDP-glucose → DGA + UDP. Both enzymes required the addition of K+ ions and archaetidylinositol for their activities. DGA synthase was stimulated by 10 mM MgCl2, in contrast to MGA synthase, which did not require Mg2+. It was likely that the activities of MGA synthesis and DGA synthesis were carried out by different proteins because of the Mg2+ requirement and their cellular localization. MGA synthase and DGA synthase can be distinguished in cell extracts greatly enriched for each activity by demonstrating the differing Mg2+ requirements of each enzyme. MGA synthase preferred a lipid substrate with the sn-2,3 stereostructure of the glycerol backbone on which two saturated isoprenoid chains are bound at the sn-2 and sn-3 positions. A lipid substrate with unsaturated isoprenoid chains or sn-1,2-dialkylglycerol configuration exhibited low activity. Tetraether-type caldarchaetidylinositol was also actively glucosylated by the homogenates to form monoglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol and a small amount of diglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol. The addition of Mg2+ increased the formation of diglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol. This suggested that the same enzyme set synthesized the sole sugar moiety of diether-type glycolipids and tetraether-type phosphoglycolipids.
Archaeal RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are closely related to eukaryotic RNAPs, and in Euryarchaea, genomic DNA is wrapped and compacted by histones into archaeal nucleosomes. In eukaryotes, transcription of DNA bound into nucleosomes is facilitated by histone tail modifications and chromatin remodeling complexes, but archaeal histones do not have histone tails and archaeal genome sequences provide no evidence for archaeal homologs of eukaryotic chromatin remodeling complexes. We have therefore investigated the ability of an archaeal RNAP, purified from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, to transcribe DNA bound into an archaeal nucleosome by HMtA2, an archaeal histone from M. thermautotrophicus. To do so, we constructed a template that allows transcript elongation to be separated from transcription initiation, on which archaeal nucleosome assembly is positioned downstream from the site of transcription initiation. At 58°C, in the absence of an archaeal nucleosome, M. thermautotrophicus RNAP transcribed this template DNA at a rate of ∼20 nucleotides per second. With an archaeal nucleosome present, transcript elongation was slowed but not blocked, with transcription pausing at sites before and within the archaeal nucleosome. With additional HMtA2 binding, complexes were obtained that also incorporated the upstream regulatory region. This inhibited transcription presumably by preventing archaeal TATA-box binding protein, general transcription factor TFB, and RNAP access and thus inhibiting transcription initiation.
No genes for any of the known uracil DNA glycosylases of the UDG superfamily are present in the genome of Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus ΔH, making it difficult to imagine how DNA-U repair might be initiated in this organism. Recently, Mth212, the ExoIII homologue of M. thermautotrophicus ΔH has been characterized as a DNA uridine endonuclease, which suggested the possibility of a novel endonucleolytic entry mechanism for DNA uracil repair. With no system of genetic experimentation available, the problem was approached biochemically. Assays of DNA uracil repair in vitro, promoted by crude cellular extracts, provide unequivocal confirmation that this mechanism does indeed operate in M. thermautotrophicus ΔH.
Two regions of the Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum genome containing genes that encode enzymes involved in methanogenesis (methane genes) have been cloned and sequenced to determine the extent of methane gene clustering and conservation. One region from the M. thermoautotrophicum strains delta H and Winter, extending approximately 13.5 kb upstream from the adjacent mvhDGAB and mrtBDGA operons that encode the methyl-viologen-reducing hydrogenase (MVH) and the methyl coenzyme M reductase II (MRII), respectively, was sequenced, and 76% sequence identity and very similar gene organizations were demonstrated. Five closely linked open reading frames were located immediately upstream of the mvh operon and were designated flpECBDA. The flpCBD genes encode amino acid sequences that are 31, 47, and 65% identical to the primary sequences of the alpha and beta subunits of formate dehydrogenase and the delta subunit of MVH, respectively. Located immediately upstream of the flp genes was the mth gene, which encodes the H2-dependent methylene-tetrahydromethanopterin dehydrogenase (MTH). In contrast to this mth-flp-mvh-mrt cluster of methane genes, a separate approximately 5.4-kb genomic fragment cloned from M. thermoautotrophicum delta H contained only one methane gene, the mtd gene, which encodes the 8-hydroxy-5-deazaflavin (H2F420)-dependent methylene-tetrahydromethanopterin dehydrogenase (MTD). Northern (RNA) blot experiments demonstrated that mth was transcribed only at early growth stages in fermentor-grown cultures of M. thermoautotrophicum delta H, whereas mtd was transcribed at later growth stages and in the stationary phase. Very similar transcription patterns have been observed by T.D. Pihl, S. Sharma, and J. N. Reeve (J. Bacteriol. 176:6384-6391, 1994) for the MRI- and MRII-encoding operons, mrtBDGA and mcrBDCGA, im M. thermoautotrophicum deltaH, suggesting coordinated regulation of methane gene expression. In contrast to the growth phase-dependent transcription of the mth/mrt and mtd/mcr genes, transcription of the mvhDGAB and frhADGB operons, which encode the two (NiFe) hydrogenases in M. thermoautotrophicum deltaH, was found to occur at all growth stages.