Evidence for the widespread occurrence of extraterrestrial halite, particularly on Mars, has led to speculations on the possibility of halophilic microbial forms of life; these ideas have been strengthened by reports of viable haloarchaea from sediments of geological age (millions of years). Raman spectroscopy, being a sensitive detection method for future astrobiological investigations onsite, has been used in the current study for the detection of nine different extremely halophilic archaeal strains which had been embedded in laboratory-made halite crystals in order to simulate evaporitic conditions. The cells accumulated preferentially in tiny fluid inclusions, in simulation of the precipitation of salt in natural brines. FT-Raman spectroscopy using laser excitation at 1064 nm and dispersive micro Raman spectroscopy at 514.5 nm were applied. The spectra showed prominent peaks at 1507, 1152 and 1002 cm−1 which are attributed to haloarchaeal C50 carotenoid compounds (mainly bacterioruberins). Their intensity varied from strain to strain at 1064-nm laser excitation. Other distinguishable features were peaks due to peptide bonds (amide I, amide III) and to nucleic acids. No evidence for fatty acids was detected, consistent with their general absence in all archaea.
These results contribute to a growing database on Raman spectra of terrestrial microorganisms from hypersaline environments and highlight the influence of the different macromolecular composition of diverse strains on these spectra.
Raman spectroscopy; extremely halophilic archaea; halite; astrobiology; fluid inclusions; carotenoids; bacterioruberins; Martian subsurface
The nitrogen cycle (N-cycle), principally supported by prokaryotes, involves different redox reactions mainly focused on assimilatory purposes or respiratory processes for energy conservation. As the N-cycle has important environmental implications, this biogeochemical cycle has become a major research topic during the last few years. However, although N-cycle metabolic pathways have been studied extensively in Bacteria or Eukarya, relatively little is known in the Archaea. Halophilic Archaea are the predominant microorganisms in hot and hypersaline environments such as salted lakes, hot springs or salted ponds. Consequently, the denitrifying haloarchaea that sustain the nitrogen cycle under these conditions have emerged as an important target for research aimed at understanding microbial life in these extreme environments.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei was isolated 20 years ago from Santa Pola salted ponds (Alicante, Spain). It was described as a denitrifier and it is also able to grow using NO3-, NO2- or NH4+ as inorganic nitrogen sources. This review summarizes the advances that have been made in understanding the N-cycle in halophilic archaea using Hfx mediterranei as a haloarchaeal model. The results obtained show that this microorganism could be very attractive for bioremediation applications in those areas where high salt, nitrate and nitrite concentrations are found in ground waters and soils.
Eighteen strains of extremely halophilic bacteria and three strains of moderately halophilic bacteria were isolated from four different solar salt environments. Growth tests on carbohydrates, low-molecular-weight carboxylic acids, and complex medium demonstrated that the moderate halophiles and strains of the extreme halophiles Haloarcula and Halococcus grew on most of the substrates tested. Among the Halobacterium isolates were several metabolic groups: strains that grew on a broad range of substrates and strains that were essentially confined to either amino acid (peptone) or carbohydrate oxidation. One strain (WS-4) only grew well on pyruvate and acetate. Most strains of extreme halophiles grew by anaerobic fermentation and possibly by nitrate reduction. Tests of growth potential in natural saltern brines demonstrated that none of the halobacteria grew well in brines which harbor the densest populations of these bacteria in solar salterns. All grew best in brines which were unsaturated with NaCl. The high concentrations of Na+ and Mg2+ found in saltern crystallizer brines limited bacterial growth, but the concentrations of K+ found in these brines had little effect. MgSO4 was relatively more inhibitory to the extreme halophiles than was MgCl2, but the reverse was true for the moderate halophiles.
Most of the haloarchaeal strains have been isolated from hypersaline environments such as solar evaporation ponds, salt lakes, or salt deposits, and they, with some exceptions, lyse or lose viability in very low-salt concentrations. There are no salty environments suitable for the growth of haloarchaea in Japan. Although Natrialba asiatica and Haloarcula japonica were isolated many years ago, the question, "Are haloarchaea really thriving in natural environments of Japan?" has remained unanswered.
Ten strains were isolated from a traditional Japanese-style salt field at Nie, Noto Peninsula, Japan by plating out the soil samples directly on agar plates containing 30% (w/v) salts and 0.5% yeast extract. They were most closely related to strains of three genera, Haladaptatus, Halococcus, and Halogeometricum. Survival rates in 3% and 0.5% SW (Salt Water, solutions containing salts in approximately the same proportions as found in seawater) solutions at 37°C differed considerably depending on the strains. Two strains belonging to Halogeometricum as well as the type strain Hgm. borinquense died and lysed immediately after suspension. Five strains that belonged to Halococcus and a strain that may be a member of Halogeometricum survived for 1–2 days in 0.5% SW solution. Two strains most closely related to Haladaptatus possessed extraordinary strong tolerance to low salt conditions. About 20 to 34% of the cells remained viable in 0.5% SW after 9 days incubation.
In this study we have demonstrated that haloarchaea are really thriving in the soil of Japanese-style salt field. The haloarchaeal cells, particularly the fragile strains are suggested to survive in the micropores of smaller size silt fraction, one of the components of soil. The inside of the silt particles is filled with concentrated salt solution and kept intact even upon suspension in rainwater. Possible origins of the haloarchaea isolated in this study are discussed.
The isolation of viable extremely halophilic archaea from 250-million-year-old rock salt suggests the possibility of their long-term survival under desiccation. Since halite has been found on Mars and in meteorites, haloarchaeal survival of martian surface conditions is being explored. Halococcus dombrowskii H4 DSM 14522T was exposed to UV doses over a wavelength range of 200–400 nm to simulate martian UV flux. Cells embedded in a thin layer of laboratory-grown halite were found to accumulate preferentially within fluid inclusions. Survival was assessed by staining with the LIVE/DEAD kit dyes, determining colony-forming units, and using growth tests. Halite-embedded cells showed no loss of viability after exposure to about 21 kJ/m2, and they resumed growth in liquid medium with lag phases of 12 days or more after exposure up to 148 kJ/m2. The estimated D37 (dose of 37 % survival) for Hcc. dombrowskii was ≥ 400 kJ/m2. However, exposure of cells to UV flux while in liquid culture reduced D37 by 2 orders of magnitude (to about 1 kJ/m2); similar results were obtained with Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 and Haloarcula japonica. The absorption of incoming light of shorter wavelength by color centers resulting from defects in the halite crystal structure likely contributed to these results. Under natural conditions, haloarchaeal cells become embedded in salt upon evaporation; therefore, dispersal of potential microscopic life within small crystals, perhaps in dust, on the surface of Mars could resist damage by UV radiation.
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
Background and Objectives
Halophilic bacteria produce a variety of pigments, which function as immune modulators and have prophylactic action against cancers. In this study, colorful halophilic bacteria were isolated from solar salt lake and their pigments was extracted in optimal environmental conditions and compared with the pigments of Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755.
Materials and Methods
Water samples from the solar salt lake in Imam Khomeini port in southwest of Iran were used as a source for isolation of pigment-producing bacteria. Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755 was used as control for pigment production. The conditions for optimum growth and pigment production were established for the isolated bacteria. Pigment were analyzed by spectrophotometer, TLC and NMR assay. The 16S rRNA genes were sequenced and results were used to differentiate haloarchaea from halophilic bacterial strains.
Among the isolated strains, YS and OS strains and Halorubrum sodomense were recognized as moderate and extremely halophile with maximum growth in the presence of 15% and 30% NaCl concentrations, respectively. Experiments conducted to find out the optimum conditions for growth and pigment production temperature at 25°C, pH = 7.2 and shaking conditions at 120 rpm for three strains. Without shaking, little growth with no pigment production was observed. Total pigment produced by red, yellow and orange strains was measured at 240, 880 and 560 mg per dry cell weight respectively. Amplification yielded bands of to isolated strains only observed with bacteria primers. This result suggesting the YS and OS strains were not haloarchaea.
The isolated halophilic bacteria produced much higher amounts of pigments than Halorubrum sodomense. Photo intermediates including metarhodopsin II (meta II, λmax=380 nm) were determined as major pigment in Halorubrum sodomense.
Halorubrum sodomense; haloarchaea; salt lake; metarhodopsin II; pigment
The extraction of salt from seawater by means of coastal solar salterns is a very well-described process. Moreover, the characterization of these environments from ecological, biochemical and microbiological perspectives has become a key focus for many research groups all over the world over the last 20 years. In countries such as Spain, there are several examples of coastal solar salterns (mainly on the Mediterranean coast) and inland solar salterns, from which sodium chloride is obtained for human consumption. However, studies focused on the characterization of inland solar salterns are scarce and both the archaeal diversity and the plant communities inhabiting these environments remain poorly described.
Two of the inland solar salterns (termed Redonda and Penalva), located in the Alto Vinalopó Valley (Alicante, Spain), were characterized regarding their geological and physico-chemical characteristics and their archaeal and botanical biodiversity. A preliminary eukaryotic diversity survey was also performed using saline water. The chemical characterization of the brine has revealed that the salted groundwater extracted to fill these inland solar salterns is thalassohaline. The plant communities living in this environment are dominated by Sarcocornia fruticosa (L.) A.J. Scott, Arthrocnemum macrostachyum (Moris) K. Koch, Suaeda vera Forsk. ex Gmelin (Amaranthaceae) and several species of Limonium (Mill) and Tamarix (L). Archaeal diversity was analyzed and compared by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based molecular phylogenetic techniques. Most of the sequences recovered from environmental DNA samples are affiliated with haloarchaeal genera such as Haloarcula, Halorubrum, Haloquadratum and Halobacterium, and with an unclassified member of the Halobacteriaceae. The eukaryote Dunaliella was also present in the samples.
To our knowledge, this study constitutes the first analysis centered on inland solar salterns located in the southeastern region of Spain. The results obtained revealed that the salt deposits of this region have marine origins. Plant communities typical of salt marshes are present in this ecosystem and members of the Halobacteriaceae family can be easily detected in the microbial populations of these habitats. Possible origins of the haloarchaea detected in this study are discussed.
Haloarchaea are the dominant microbial flora in hypersaline waters with near-saturating salt levels. The haloarchaeal diversity of an Australian saltern crystallizer pond was examined by use of a library of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes and by cultivation. High viable counts (106 CFU/ml) were obtained on solid media. Long incubation times (≥8 weeks) appeared to be more important than the medium composition for maximizing viable counts and diversity. Of 66 isolates examined, all belonged to the family Halobacteriaceae, including members related to species of the genera Haloferax, Halorubrum, and Natronomonas. In addition, isolates belonging to a novel group (the ADL group), previously detected only as 16S rRNA genes in an Antarctic hypersaline lake (Deep Lake), were cultivated for the first time. The 16S rRNA gene library identified the following five main groups: Halorubrum groups 1 and 2 (49%), the SHOW (square haloarchaea of Walsby) group (33%), the ADL group (16%), and the Natronomonas group (2%). There were two significant differences between the organisms detected in cultivation and 16S rRNA sequence results. Firstly, Haloferax spp. were frequently isolated on plates (15% of all isolates) but were not detected in the 16S rRNA sequences. Control experiments indicated that a bias against Haloferax sequences in the generation of the 16S rRNA gene library was unlikely, suggesting that Haloferax spp. readily form colonies, even though they were not a dominant group. Secondly, while the 16S rRNA gene library identified the SHOW group as a major component of the microbial community, no isolates of this group were obtained. This inability to culture members of the SHOW group remains an outstanding problem in studying the ecology of hypersaline environments.
Various effects of microgravity on prokaryotes have been recognized in recent years, with the focus on studies of pathogenic bacteria. No archaea have been investigated yet with respect to their responses to microgravity. For exposure experiments on spacecrafts or on the International Space Station, halophilic archaea (haloarchaea) are usually embedded in halite, where they accumulate in fluid inclusions. In a liquid environment, these cells will experience microgravity in space, which might influence their viability and survival. Two haloarchaeal strains, Haloferax mediterranei and Halococcus dombrowskii, were grown in simulated microgravity (SMG) with the rotary cell culture system (RCCS, Synthecon). Initially, salt precipitation and detachment of the porous aeration membranes in the RCCS were observed, but they were avoided in the remainder of the experiment by using disposable instead of reusable vessels. Several effects were detected, which were ascribed to growth in SMG: Hfx. mediterranei's resistance to the antibiotics bacitracin, erythromycin, and rifampicin increased markedly; differences in pigmentation and whole cell protein composition (proteome) of both strains were noted; cell aggregation of Hcc. dombrowskii was notably reduced. The results suggest profound effects of SMG on haloarchaeal physiology and cellular processes, some of which were easily observable and measurable. This is the first report of archaeal responses to SMG. The molecular mechanisms of the effects induced by SMG on prokaryotes are largely unknown; haloarchaea could be used as nonpathogenic model systems for their elucidation and in addition could provide information about survival during lithopanspermia (interplanetary transport of microbes inside meteorites). Key Words: Haloferax mediterranei—Halococcus dombrowskii—Simulated microgravity—Rotary cell culture system—Antibiotic resistance—Lithopanspermia. Astrobiology 11, 199–205.
Possession of gas vesicles is generally considered to be advantageous to halophilic archaea: the vesicles are assumed to enable the cells to float, and thus reach high oxygen concentrations at the surface of the brine.
We studied the possible ecological advantage of gas vesicles in a dense community of flat square extremely halophilic archaea in the saltern crystallizer ponds of Eilat, Israel. We found that in this environment, the cells' content of gas vesicles was insufficient to provide positive buoyancy. Instead, sinking/floating velocities were too low to permit vertical redistribution.
The hypothesis that the gas vesicles enable the square archaea to float to the surface of the brines in which they live was not supported by experimental evidence. Presence of the vesicles, which are mainly located close to the cell periphery, may provide an advantage as they may aid the cells to position themselves parallel to the surface, thereby increasing the efficiency of light harvesting by the retinal pigments in the membrane.
Viable extremely halophilic archaea (haloarchaea) have been isolated from million-year-old salt deposits around the world; however, an explanation of their supposed longevity remains a fundamental challenge. Recently small roundish particles in fluid inclusions of 22 000- to 34 000-year-old halite were identified as haloarchaea capable of proliferation (Schubert BA, Lowenstein TK, Timofeeff MN, Parker MA, 2010, Environmental Microbiology, 12, 440–454). Searching for a method to produce such particles in the laboratory, we exposed rod-shaped cells of Halobacterium species to reduced external water activity (aw). Gradual formation of spheres of about 0.4 μm diameter occurred in 4 m NaCl buffer of aw ≤ 0.75, but exposure to buffered 4 m LiCl (aw ≤ 0.73) split cells into spheres within seconds, with concomitant release of several proteins. From one rod, three or four spheres emerged, which re-grew to normal rods in nutrient media. Biochemical properties of rods and spheres were similar, except for a markedly reduced ATP content (about 50-fold) and an increased lag phase of spheres, as is known from dormant bacteria. The presence of viable particles of similar sizes in ancient fluid inclusions suggested that spheres might represent dormant states of haloarchaea. The easy production of spheres by lowering aw should facilitate their investigation and could help to understand the mechanisms for microbial survival over geological times.
Generally, extremophiles have been deemed to survive in the extreme environments to which they had adapted to grow. Recently many extremophiles have been isolated from places where they are not expected to grow. Alkaliphilic microorganisms have been isolated from acidic soil samples with pH 4.0, and thermophiles have been isolated from samples of low temperature. Numerous moderately halophilic microorganisms, defined as those that grow optimally in media containing 0.5–2.5 Molar (3–15%) NaCl, and halotolerant microorganisms that are able to grow in media without added NaCl and in the presence of high NaCl have been isolated from saline environments such as salterns, salt lakes and sea sands. It has tacitly been believed that habitats of halophiles able to grow in media containing more than 20% (3.4 M) are restricted to saline environments, and no reports have been published on the isolation of halophiles from ordinary garden soil samples.
We demonstrated that many halophilic bacteria that are able to grow in the presence of 20% NaCl are inhabiting in non-saline environments such as ordinary garden soils, yards, fields and roadways in an area surrounding Tokyo, Japan. Analyses of partial 16S rRNA gene sequences of 176 isolates suggested that they were halophiles belonging to genera of the family Bacillaceae, Bacillus (11 isolates), Filobacillus (19 isolates), Gracilibacillus (6 isolates), Halobacillus (102 isolates), Lentibacillus (1 isolate), Paraliobacillus (5 isolates) and Virgibacillus (17 isolates). Sequences of 15 isolates showed similarities less than 92%, suggesting that they may represent novel taxa within the family Bacillaceae.
The numbers of total bacteria of inland soil samples were in a range from 1.4 × 107/g to 1.1 × 106/g. One tenth of the total bacteria was occupied by endospore-forming bacteria. Only very few of the endospore-forming bacteria, roughly 1 out of 20,000, are halophilic bacteria. Most of the halophilic bacteria were surviving as endospores in the soil samples, in a range of less than 1 to about 500/g soil. Samples collected from seashore in a city confronting Tokyo Bay gave the total numbers of bacteria and endospores roughly 1000 time smaller than those of inland soil samples. Numbers of halophilic bacteria per gram, however, were almost the same as those of inland soil samples. A possible source of the halophilic endospore originating from Asian dust storms is discussed.
A comparative genomic and proteomic study of halophilic and non-halophilic prokaryotes identifies specific genomic and proteomic features typical of halophilic species that are independent from genomic GC-content and taxonomic position.
Halophilic prokaryotes are adapted to thrive in extreme conditions of salinity. Identification and analysis of distinct macromolecular characteristics of halophiles provide insight into the factors responsible for their adaptation to high-salt environments. The current report presents an extensive and systematic comparative analysis of genome and proteome composition of halophilic and non-halophilic microorganisms, with a view to identify such macromolecular signatures of haloadaptation.
Comparative analysis of the genomes and proteomes of halophiles and non-halophiles reveals some common trends in halophiles that transcend the boundary of phylogenetic relationship and the genomic GC-content of the species. At the protein level, halophilic species are characterized by low hydrophobicity, over-representation of acidic residues, especially Asp, under-representation of Cys, lower propensities for helix formation and higher propensities for coil structure. At the DNA level, the dinucleotide abundance profiles of halophilic genomes bear some common characteristics, which are quite distinct from those of non-halophiles, and hence may be regarded as specific genomic signatures for salt-adaptation. The synonymous codon usage in halophiles also exhibits similar patterns regardless of their long-term evolutionary history.
The generality of molecular signatures for environmental adaptation of extreme salt-loving organisms, demonstrated in the present study, advocates the convergent evolution of halophilic species towards specific genome and amino acid composition, irrespective of their varying GC-bias and widely disparate taxonomic positions. The adapted features of halophiles seem to be related to physical principles governing DNA and protein stability, in response to the extreme environmental conditions under which they thrive.
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.
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.
The aim of the present study was to investigate indigenous fungal communities isolated from extreme environments (hypersaline waters of solar salterns and subglacial ice), for the production of metabolic compounds with selected biological activities: hemolysis, antibacterial, and acetylcholinesterase inhibition. In their natural habitats, the selected fungi are exposed to environmental extremes, and therefore the production of bioactive metabolites was tested under both standard growth conditions for mesophilic microorganisms, and at high NaCl and sugar concentrations and low growth temperatures. The results indicate that selected halotolerant and halophilic species synthesize specific bioactive metabolites under conditions that represent stress for non-adapted species. Furthermore, adaptation at the level of the chemical nature of the solute lowering the water activity of the medium was observed. Increased salt concentrations resulted in higher hemolytic activity, particularly within species dominating the salterns. The appearance of antibacterial potential under stress conditions was seen in the similar pattern of fungal species as for hemolysis. The active extracts exclusively affected the growth of the Gram-positive bacterium tested, Bacillus subtilis. None of the extracts tested showed inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity.
hypersaline environments; black yeast; NaCl; secondary metabolites; hemolysis; antibacterial activity
Halophilic (literally salt-loving) archaea are a highly evolved group of organisms that are uniquely able to survive in and exploit hypersaline environments. In this review, we examine the potential interplay between fluctuations in environmental salinity and the primary sequence and tertiary structure of halophilic proteins. The proteins of halophilic archaea are highly adapted and magnificently engineered to function in an intracellular milieu that is in ionic balance with an external environment containing between 2 and 5 M inorganic salt. To understand the nature of halophilic adaptation and to visualize this interplay, the sequences of genes encoding the L11, L1, L10, and L12 proteins of the large ribosome subunit and Mn/Fe superoxide dismutase proteins from three genera of halophilic archaea have been aligned and analyzed for the presence of synonymous and nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions. Compared to homologous eubacterial genes, these halophilic genes exhibit an inordinately high proportion of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions that result in amino acid replacement in the encoded proteins. More than one-third of the replacements involve acidic amino acid residues. We suggest that fluctuations in environmental salinity provide the driving force for fixation of the excessive number of nonsynonymous substitutions. Tinkering with the number, location, and arrangement of acidic and other amino acid residues influences the fitness (i.e., hydrophobicity, surface hydration, and structural stability) of the halophilic protein. Tinkering is also evident at halophilic protein positions monomorphic or polymorphic for serine; more than one-third of these positions use both the TCN and the AGY serine codons, indicating that there have been multiple nonsynonymous substitutions at these positions. Our model suggests that fluctuating environmental salinity prevents optimization of fitness for many halophilic proteins and helps to explain the unusual evolutionary divergence of their encoding genes.
Bacterial and archaeal aerobic communities were recovered from sediments from the shallow El-Djerid salt lake in Tunisia, and their salinity gradient distribution was established. Six samples for physicochemical and microbiological analyses were obtained from 6 saline sites in the lake for physico-chemical and microbiological analyses. All samples studied were considered hypersaline with NaCl concentration ranging from 150 to 260 g/L. A specific halophilic microbial community was recovered from each site, and characterization of isolated microorganisms was performed via both phenotypic and phylogenetic approaches. Only one extreme halophilic organism, domain Archaea, was isolated from site 4 only, whereas organisms in the domain Bacteria were recovered from the five remaining sampling sites that contained up to 250 g/L NaCl. Members of the domain Bacteria belonged to genera Salicola, Pontibacillus, Halomonas, Marinococcus, and Halobacillus, whereas the only member of domain Archaea isolated belonged to the genus Halorubrum. The results of this study are discussed in terms of the ecological significance of these microorganisms in the breakdown of organic matter in Lake El-Djerid and their potential for industry applications.
We investigated the phylogenetic diversity and community structure of members of the halophilic Archaea (order Halobacteriales) in five distinct sediment habitats that experience various levels of salinity and salinity fluctuations (sediments from Great Salt Plains and Zodletone Spring in Oklahoma, mangrove tree sediments in Puerto Rico, sediment underneath salt heaps in a salt-processing plant, and sediments from the Great Salt Lake northern arm) using Halobacteriales-specific 16S rRNA gene primers. Extremely diverse Halobacteriales communities were encountered in all habitats, with 27 (Zodletone) to 37 (mangrove) different genera identified per sample, out of the currently described 38 Halobacteriales genera. With the exception of Zodletone Spring, where the prevalent geochemical conditions are extremely inhospitable to Halobacteriales survival, habitats with fluctuating salinity levels were more diverse than permanently saline habitats. Sequences affiliated with the recently described genera Halogranum, Halolamina, Haloplanus, Halosarcina, and Halorientalis, in addition to the genera Halorubrum, Haloferax, and Halobacterium, were among the most abundant and ubiquitous genera, suggesting a wide distribution of these poorly studied genera in saline sediments. The Halobacteriales sediment communities analyzed in this study were more diverse than and completely distinct from communities from typical hypersaline water bodies. Finally, sequences unaffiliated with currently described genera represented a small fraction of the total Halobacteriales communities, ranging between 2.5% (Zodletone) to 7.0% (mangrove and Great Salt Lake). However, these novel sequences were characterized by remarkably high levels of alpha and beta diversities, suggesting the presence of an enormous, yet-untapped supply of novel Halobacteriales genera within the rare biosphere of various saline ecosystems.
Since its discovery in 1998, representatives of the extremely halophilic bacterium Salinibacter ruber have been found in many hypersaline environments across the world, including coastal and solar salterns and solar lakes. Here, we review the available information about the distribution, abundance and diversity of this member of the Bacteroidetes.
We report here the effect of environmental parameters, salinity, temperature, and an intercalating drug on plasmid topology in the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii. We first studied the topological state of the plasmid pHV11 in media of different salt compositions and concentrations. The superhelical density of plasmid PHV11 varies in a way that depends on the kind of salt and on the concentrations of individual salts. With respect to growth temperature, the plasmid linking number increased at higher temperature in a linear way, contrary to what has been reported for Escherichia coli, in which the plasmid linking number decreased at higher temperature. These results suggest that some of the mechanisms that control DNA supercoiling in halophilic Archaea may be different from those described for E. coli. However, homeostatic control of DNA supercoiling seems to occur in haloarchaea, as in Bacteria, since we found that relaxation of DNA by chloroquine triggers an increase in negative supercoiling.
Hypersaline environments harbour the highest number of viruses reported for aquatic environments. In crystallizer ponds from solar salterns, haloviruses coexist with extremely halophilic Archaea and Bacteria and present a high diversity although little is known about their activity. In this work, we analyzed the viral expression in one crystallizer using a metatranscriptomic approach in which clones from a metaviromic library were immobilized in a microarray and used as probes against total mRNA extracted from the hypersaline community. This approach has two advantages: (i) it overcomes the fact that there is no straightforward, unambiguous way to extract viral mRNA from bulk mRNAs and (ii) it makes the sequencing of all mRNAs unnecessary. Transcriptomic data indicated that the halovirus assemblage was highly active at the time of sampling and the viral groups with the highest expression levels were those related to high GC content haloarchaea and Salinibacter representatives, which are minor components in the environment. Moreover, the changes in the viral expression pattern and in the numbers of free viral particles were analyzed after submitting the samples to two stress conditions: ultraviolet-radiation and dilution. Results showed that Archaea were more sensitive than Bacteria to these stress conditions. The overexpression in the predicted archaeal virus fraction raised and the total numbers of free viruses increased. Furthermore, we identified some very closely related viral clones, displaying single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which were expressed only under certain conditions. These clones could be part of very closely related virus genomes for which we propose the term ‘ecoviriotypes'.
virus; metatranscriptome; metagenome; halovirus; haloquadratum; salinibacter
In order to survive in highly saline environments, proteins from halophilic archea have evolved with biased amino acid compositions that have the capacity to reduce contacts with the solvent.
Proteins from halophilic organisms, which live in extreme saline conditions, have evolved to remain folded at very high ionic strengths. The surfaces of halophilic proteins show a biased amino acid composition with a high prevalence of aspartic and glutamic acids, a low frequency of lysine, and a high occurrence of amino acids with a low hydrophobic character. Using extensive mutational studies on the protein surfaces, we show that it is possible to decrease the salt dependence of a typical halophilic protein to the level of a mesophilic form and engineer a protein from a mesophilic organism into an obligate halophilic form. NMR studies demonstrate complete preservation of the three-dimensional structure of extreme mutants and confirm that salt dependency is conferred exclusively by surface residues. In spite of the statistically established fact that most halophilic proteins are strongly acidic, analysis of a very large number of mutants showed that the effect of salt on protein stability is largely independent of the total protein charge. Conversely, we quantitatively demonstrate that halophilicity is directly related to a decrease in the accessible surface area.
Life on earth exhibits an enormous adaptive capacity and living organisms can be found even in extreme environments. The halophilic archea are a group of microorganisms that grow best in highly salted lakes (with KCl concentrations between 2 and 6 molar). To avoid osmotic shock, halophilic archea have the same ionic strength inside their cells as outside. All their macromolecules, including the proteins, have therefore adapted to remain folded and functional under such ionic strength conditions. As a result, the amino acid composition of proteins adapted to a hypersaline environment is very characteristic: they have an abundance of negatively charged residues combined with a low frequency of lysines. In this study, we have investigated the relationship between this biased amino-acid composition and protein stability. Three model proteins – one from a strict halophile, its homolog from a mesophile and a totally unrelated protein from a mesophile - have been largely redesigned by site-directed mutagenesis, and the resulting mutants have been characterized structurally and thermodynamically. Our results show that amino acids with short side-chains (like aspartic and glutamic acid) are preferred to the longer lysine because they succeed in reducing the interaction surface between the protein and the solvent, which is beneficial in an environment where water is in limited availability because it also has to hydrate the salt ions.
The deep-sea, hypersaline anoxic brine lakes in the Mediterranean are among the most extreme environments on earth, and in one of them, the MgCl2-rich Discovery basin, the presence of active microbes is equivocal. However, thriving microbial communities have been detected especially in the chemocline between deep seawater and three NaCl-rich brine lakes, l'Atalante, Bannock and Urania. By contrast, the microbiota of these brine-lake sediments remains largely unexplored.
Eighty nine isolates were obtained from the sediments of four deep-sea, hypersaline anoxic brine lakes in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: l'Atalante, Bannock, Discovery and Urania basins. This culture collection was dominated by representatives of the genus Bacillus and close relatives (90% of all isolates) that were investigated further. Physiological characterization of representative strains revealed large versatility with respect to enzyme activities or substrate utilization. Two third of the isolates did not grow at in-situ salinities and were presumably present as endospores. This is supported by high numbers of endospores in Bannock, Discovery and Urania basins ranging from 3.8 × 105 to 1.2 × 106 g-1 dw sediment. However, the remaining isolates were highly halotolerant growing at salinities of up to 30% NaCl. Some of the novel isolates affiliating with the genus Pontibacillus grew well under anoxic conditions in sulfidic medium by fermentation or anaerobic respiration using dimethylsulfoxide or trimethylamine N-oxide as electron acceptor.
Some of the halophilic, facultatively anaerobic relatives of Bacillus appear well adapted to life in this hostile environment and suggest the presence of actively growing microbial communities in the NaCl-rich, deep-sea brine-lake sediments.
Two halophilic anaerobic bacteria, one of which had chitinolytic activity, were isolated from a solar saltern in southern California. These organisms were long, gram-negative, motile, flexible rods. The biochemical and physiological characteristics of these bacteria were very similar but were different from the characteristics of other haloanaerobic bacteria. Both grew at salt concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 5 M and at temperatures ranging from 23 to 50°C. They were sensitive to chloramphenicol but resistant to penicillin, carbenicillin, d-cycloserine, streptomycin, and tetracycline. An analysis of DNAs and whole-cell proteins showed that they were closely related taxonomically and distinguishable from other halophilic anaerobic bacteria. They exhibited 92.3 to 100% DNA homology as determined by DNA-DNA hybridization. The guanine-plus-cytosine contents of their DNAs were 34.8±1 mol%. The two isolates, strains W5C8 and W3C1, differed from other halophilic anaerobic bacteria sufficiently to support establishment of a new genus and species, Haloanaerobacter chitinovorans. Strain W5C8 exhibited chitinolytic activity and is designated the type strain. Two chitin-induced extracellular proteins with molecular weights of 38 × 103 and 40 × 103 were detected in strain W5C8.
Halophilic archaea maintain intracellular salt concentrations close to saturation to survive in high-salt environments and their cellular processes have adapted to function under these conditions. Little is known regarding halophilic adaptation of the DNA processing machinery, particularly intriguing since protein-DNA interactions are classically salt sensitive. To investigate such adaptation, we characterised the DNA-binding capabilities of recombinant RPA3 from Haloferax volcanii (HvRPA3). Under physiological salt conditions (3 M KCl), HvRPA3 is monomeric, binding 18 nucleotide ssDNA with nanomolar affinity, demonstrating that RPAs containing the single OB-fold/zinc finger architecture bind with broadly comparable affinity to two OB-fold/zinc finger RPAs. Reducing the salt concentration to 1 M KCl induces dimerisation of the protein, which retains its ability to bind DNA. On circular ssDNA, two concentration-dependent binding modes are observed. Conventionally, increased salt concentration adversely affects DNA binding but HvRPA3 does not bind DNA in 0.2 M KCl, although multimerisation may occlude the binding site. The single N-terminal OB-fold is competent to bind DNA in the absence of the C-terminal zinc finger, albeit with reduced affinity. This study represents the first quantitative characterisation of DNA binding in a halophilic protein in extreme salt concentrations.