With the availability of a genome sequence and increasingly sophisticated genetic tools, Haloferax volcanii is becoming a model for both Archaea and halophiles. In order for H. volcanii to reach a status equivalent to Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a gene knockout collection needs to be constructed in order to identify the archaeal essential gene set and enable systematic phenotype screens. A streamlined gene-deletion protocol adapted for potential automation was implemented and used to generate 22 H. volcanii deletion strains and identify several potentially essential genes. These gene deletion mutants, generated in this and previous studies, were then analyzed in a high-throughput fashion to measure growth rates in different media and temperature conditions. We conclude that these high-throughput methods are suitable for a rapid investigation of an H. volcanii mutant library and suggest that they should form the basis of a larger genome-wide experiment.
Since most archaea are extremophilic and difficult to cultivate, our current knowledge of their biology is confined largely to comparative genomics and biochemistry. Haloferax volcanii offers great promise as a model organism for archaeal genetics, but until now there has been a lack of a wide variety of selectable markers for this organism. We describe here isolation of H. volcanii leuB and trpA genes encoding 3-isopropylmalate dehydrogenase and tryptophan synthase, respectively, and development of these genes as a positive selection system. ΔleuB and ΔtrpA mutants were constructed in a variety of genetic backgrounds and were shown to be auxotrophic for leucine and tryptophan, respectively. We constructed both integrative and replicative plasmids carrying the leuB or trpA gene under control of a constitutive promoter. The use of these selectable markers in deletion of the lhr gene of H. volcanii is described.
The genome sequence of Haloferax volcanii is available and several comparative genomic in silico studies were performed that yielded novel insight for example into protein export, RNA modifications, small non-coding RNAs, and ubiquitin-like Small Archaeal Modifier Proteins. The full range of functional genomic methods has been established and results from transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic studies are discussed. Notably, Hfx. volcanii is together with Halobacterium salinarum the only prokaryotic species for which a translatome analysis has been performed. The results revealed that the fraction of translationally-regulated genes in haloarchaea is as high as in eukaryotes. A highly efficient genetic system has been established that enables the application of libraries as well as the parallel generation of genomic deletion mutants. Facile mutant generation is complemented by the possibility to culture Hfx. volcanii in microtiter plates, allowing the phenotyping of mutant collections. Genetic approaches are currently used to study diverse biological questions–from replication to posttranslational modification—and selected results are discussed. Taken together, the wealth of functional genomic and genetic tools make Hfx. volcanii a bona fide archaeal model species, which has enabled the generation of important results in recent years and will most likely generate further breakthroughs in the future.
In part due to the existence of simple methods for its cultivation and
genetic manipulation, Haloferax volcanii is a major
archaeal model organism. It is the only archaeon for which the whole
set of post-transcriptionally modified tRNAs has been sequenced,
allowing for an in silico prediction of all RNA
modification genes present in the organism. One approach to check
these predictions experimentally is via the construction of targeted
gene deletion mutants. Toward this goal, an integrative “Gateway
vector” that allows gene deletion in H.
volcanii uracil auxotrophs was constructed. The vector was
used to delete three predicted tRNA modification genes: HVO_2001
(encoding an archaeal transglycosyl tranferase or arcTGT), which is
involved in archeosine biosynthesis; HVO_2348 (encoding a newly
discovered GTP cyclohydrolase I), which catalyzes the first step
common to archaeosine and folate biosynthesis; and HVO_2736 (encoding
a member of the COG1444 family), which is involved in
formation. Preliminary phenotypic analysis of the deletion mutants was
conducted, and confirmed all three predictions.
Archaea; GTP-cyclohydrolase I; halophile; tRNA-modification
The genetics and biochemistry of the N-linked glycosylation system of Archaea have been investigated over the past 5 years using flagellins and S layers as reporter proteins in the model organisms, Methanococcus voltae, Methanococcus maripaludis, and Haloferax volcanii. Structures of archaeal N-linked glycans have indicated a variety of linking sugars as well as unique sugar components. In M. voltae, M. maripaludis, and H. volcanii, a number of archaeal glycosylation genes (agl) have been identified by deletion and complementation studies. These include many of the glycosyltransferases and the oligosaccharyltransferase needed to assemble the glycans as well as some of the genes encoding enzymes required for the biosynthesis of the sugars themselves. The N-linked glycosylation system is not essential for any of M. voltae, M. maripaludis, or H. volcanii, as demonstrated by the successful isolation of mutants carrying deletions in the oligosaccharyltransferase gene aglB (a homologue of the eukaryotic Stt3 subunit of the oligosaccharyltransferase complex). However, mutations that affect the glycan structure have serious effects on both flagellation and S layer function.
The crystal structure of PCNA from the halophilic archaeon H. volcanii reveals specific features of the charge distribution on the protein surface that reflect adaptation to a high-salt environment and suggests a different type of interaction with DNA in halophilic PCNAs.
The sliding clamp proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) plays vital roles in many aspects of DNA replication and repair in eukaryotic cells and in archaea. Realising the full potential of archaea as a model for PCNA function requires a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches. In order to provide a platform for subsequent reverse genetic analysis, PCNA from the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii was subjected to crystallographic analysis. The gene was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli and the protein was purified by affinity chromatography and crystallized by the vapour-diffusion technique. The structure was determined by molecular replacement and refined at 3.5 Å resolution to a final R factor of 23.7% (R
free = 25%). PCNA from H. volcanii was found to be homotrimeric and to resemble other homotrimeric PCNA clamps but with several differences that appear to be associated with adaptation of the protein to the high intracellular salt concentrations found in H. volcanii cells.
PCNA–DNA interactions; sliding clamps; halophilic environment
So far, the extremely halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii has the best genetic tools among the archaea. However, the lack of an efficient gene knockout system for this organism has hampered further genetic studies. In this paper we describe the development of pyrE-based positive selection and counterselection systems to generate an efficient gene knockout system. The H. volacanii pyrE1 and pyrE2 genes were isolated, and the pyrE2 gene was shown to code for the physiological enzyme orotate phosphoribosyl transferase. A ΔpyrE2 strain was constructed and used to isolate deletion mutants by the following two steps: (i) integration of a nonreplicative plasmid carrying both the pyrE2 wild-type gene, as a selectable marker, and a cloned chromosomal DNA fragment containing a deletion in the desired gene; and (ii) excision of the integrated plasmid after selection with 5-fluoroorotic acid. Application of this gene knockout system is described.
Little is known regarding the biological roles of archaeal proteases. The haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii is an ideal model for understanding these enzymes, as it is one of few archaea with an established genetic system. In this report, a series of H. volcanii mutant strains with markerless and/or conditional knockouts in each known proteasome gene was systematically generated and characterized. This included single and double knockouts of genes encoding the 20S core α1 (psmA), β (psmB), and α2 (psmC) subunits as well as genes (panA and panB) encoding proteasome-activating nucleotidase (PAN) proteins closely related to the regulatory particle triple-A ATPases (Rpt) of eukaryotic 26S proteasomes. Our results demonstrate that 20S proteasomes are required for growth. Although synthesis of 20S proteasomes containing either α1 or α2 could be separately abolished via gene knockout with little to no impact on growth, conditional depletion of either β alone or α1 and α2 together rendered the cells inviable. In contrast, the PAN proteins were not essential based on the robust growth of the panA panB double knockout strain. Deletion of genes encoding either α1 or PanA did, however, render cells more sensitive to growth on organic versus inorganic nitrogen sources and hypo-osmotic stress and limited growth in the presence of l-canavanine. Abolishment of α1 synthesis also had a severe impact on the ability of cells to withstand thermal stress. This contrasted with what was seen for panA knockouts, which displayed enhanced thermotolerance. Together, these results provide new and important insight into the biological role of proteasomes in archaea.
Research into archaea will not achieve its full potential until systems are in place to carry out genetics and biochemistry in the same species. Haloferax volcanii is widely regarded as the best-equipped organism for archaeal genetics, but the development of tools for the expression and purification of H. volcanii proteins has been neglected. We have developed a series of plasmid vectors and host strains for conditional overexpression of halophilic proteins in H. volcanii. The plasmids feature the tryptophan-inducible p.tnaA promoter and a 6×His tag for protein purification by metal affinity chromatography. Purification is facilitated by host strains, where pitA is replaced by the ortholog from Natronomonas pharaonis. The latter lacks the histidine-rich linker region found in H. volcanii PitA and does not copurify with His-tagged recombinant proteins. We also deleted the mrr restriction endonuclease gene, thereby allowing direct transformation without the need to passage DNA through an Escherichia coli dam mutant.
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.
We report here on advances made in the construction of plasmid shuttle vectors suitable for genetic manipulations in both Escherichia coli and halobacteria. Starting with a 20.4-kb construct, pMDS1, new vectors were engineered which were considerably smaller yet retained several alternative cloning sites. A restriction barrier observed when plasmid DNA was transferred into Haloferax volcanii cells was found to operate via adenine methylation, resulting in a 10(3) drop in transformation efficiency and the loss of most constructs by incorporation of the resistance marker into the chromosome. Passing shuttle vectors through E. coli dam mutants effectively avoided this barrier. Deletion analysis revealed that the gene(s) for autonomous replication of pHK2 (the plasmid endogenous to Haloferax strain Aa2.2 and used in the construction of pMDS1) was located within a 4.2-kb SmaI-KpnI fragment. Convenient restriction sites were identified near the termini of the novobiocin resistance determinant (gyrB), allowing the removal of flanking sequences (including gyrA). These deletions did not appear to significantly affect transformation efficiencies or the novobiocin resistance phenotype of halobacterial transformants. Northern blot hybridization with strand- and gene-specific probes identified a single gyrB-gyrA transcript of 4.7 kb. This is the first demonstration in prokaryotes that the two subunits of DNA gyrase may be cotranscribed.
DNA ligases are required for DNA strand joining in all forms of cellular life. NAD+-dependent DNA ligases are found primarily in eubacteria but also in some eukaryotic viruses, bacteriophage and archaea. Among the archaeal NAD+-dependent DNA ligases is the LigN enzyme of the halophilic euryarchaeon Haloferax volcanii, the gene for which was apparently acquired by Hfx.volcanii through lateral gene transfer (LGT) from a halophilic eubacterium. Genetic studies show that the LGT-acquired LigN enzyme shares an essential function with the native Hfx.volcanii ATP-dependent DNA ligase protein LigA.
To characterise the enzymatic properties of the LigN protein, wild-type and three mutant forms of the LigN protein were separately expressed in recombinant form in E.coli and purified to apparent homogeneity by immobilised metal ion affinity chromatography (IMAC). Non-isotopic DNA ligase activity assays using λ DNA restriction fragments with 12 bp cos cohesive ends were used to show that LigN activity was dependent on addition of divalent cations and salt. No activity was detected in the absence of KCl, whereas maximum activity could be detected at 3.2 M KCl, close to the intracellular KCl concentration of Hfx.volcanii cells.
LigN is unique amongst characterised DNA ligase enzymes in displaying maximal DNA strand joining activity at high (> 3 M) salt levels. As such the LigN enzyme has potential both as a novel tool for biotechnology and as a model enzyme for studying the adaptation of proteins to high intracellular salt levels.
Halolysins are subtilisin-like extracellular proteases produced by haloarchaea that possess unique protein domains and are salt dependent for structural integrity and functionality. In contrast to bacterial subtilases, the maturation mechanism of halolysins has not been addressed. The halolysin Nep is secreted by the alkaliphilic haloarchaeon Natrialba magadii, and the recombinant active enzyme has been synthesized in Haloferax volcanii. Nep contains an N-terminal signal peptide with the typical Tat consensus motif (GRRSVL), an N-terminal propeptide, the protease domain, and a C-terminal domain. In this study, we used Nep as a model protease to examine the secretion and maturation of halolysins by using genetic and biochemical approaches. Mutant variants of Nep were constructed by site-directed mutagenesis and expressed in H. volcanii, which were then analyzed by protease activity and Western blotting. The Tat dependence of Nep secretion was demonstrated in Nep RR/KK variants containing double lysine (KK) in place of the twin arginines (RR), in which Nep remained cell associated and the extracellular activity was undetectable. High-molecular-mass Nep polypeptides without protease activity were detected as cell associated and extracellularly in the Nep S/A variant, in which the catalytic serine 352 had been changed by alanine, indicating that Nep protease activity was needed for precursor processing and activation. Nep NSN 1-2 containing a modification in two potential cleavage sites for signal peptidase I (ASA) was not efficiently processed and activated. This study examined for the first time the secretion and maturation of a Tat-dependent halophilic subtilase.
We have used a modified intron-containing tRNA(Pro(UGG) gene (tRNA(ProM), derived from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae tRNA(Pro(UGG) gene, as a reporter to measure in vivo transcription from a halophilic archaeon promoter. Coupling of the yeast tRNA(ProM) gene to the Haloferax volcanii tRNA(Lys) promoter on the H. volcanii plasmid pWL201 led to the production of a single stable transcript that was readily quantitated by Northern (RNA) blot analysis. Comparison of tRNA(ProM) RNA production from constructs containing the wild-type tRNA(Lys) promoter and those containing mutant tRNA(Lys) promoters demonstrated that this assay system can be used to measure expression from strong and weak promoters.
Although the genome of Haloferax volcanii contains genes (flgA1-flgA2) that encode flagellins and others that encode proteins involved in flagellar assembly, previous reports have concluded that H. volcanii is nonmotile. Contrary to these reports, we have now identified conditions under which H. volcanii is motile. Moreover, we have determined that an H. volcanii deletion mutant lacking flagellin genes is not motile. However, unlike flagella characterized in other prokaryotes, including other archaea, the H. volcanii flagella do not appear to play a significant role in surface adhesion. While flagella often play similar functional roles in bacteria and archaea, the processes involved in the biosynthesis of archaeal flagella do not resemble those involved in assembling bacterial flagella but, instead, are similar to those involved in producing bacterial type IV pili. Consistent with this observation, we have determined that, in addition to disrupting preflagellin processing, deleting pibD, which encodes the preflagellin peptidase, prevents the maturation of other H. volcanii type IV pilin-like proteins. Moreover, in addition to abolishing swimming motility, and unlike the flgA1-flgA2 deletion, deleting pibD eliminates the ability of H. volcanii to adhere to a glass surface, indicating that a nonflagellar type IV pilus-like structure plays a critical role in H. volcanii surface adhesion.
The basal transcription apparatus of archaea is well characterized. However, much less is known about the mechanisms of transcription termination and translation initation. Recently, experimental determination of the 5′-ends of ten transcripts from Pyrobaculum aerophilum revealed that these are devoid of a 5′-UTR. Bioinformatic analysis indicated that many transcripts of other archaeal species might also be leaderless. The 5′-ends and 3′-ends of 40 transcripts of two haloarchaeal species, Halobacterium salinarum and Haloferax volcanii, have been determined. They were used to characterize the lengths of 5′-UTRs and 3′-UTRs and to deduce consensus sequence-elements for transcription and translation. The experimental approach was complemented with a bioinformatics analysis of the H. salinarum genome sequence. Furthermore, the influence of selected 5′-UTRs and 3′-UTRs on transcript stability and translational efficiency in vivo was characterized using a newly established reporter gene system, gene fusions, and real-time PCR. Consensus sequences for basal promoter elements could be refined and a novel element was discovered. A consensus motif probably important for transcriptional termination was established. All 40 haloarchaeal transcripts analyzed had a 3′-UTR (average size 57 nt), and their 3′-ends were not posttranscriptionally modified. Experimental data and genome analyses revealed that the majority of haloarchaeal transcripts are leaderless, indicating that this is the predominant mode for translation initiation in haloarchaea. Surprisingly, the 5′-UTRs of most leadered transcripts did not contain a Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence. A genome analysis indicated that less than 10% of all genes are preceded by a SD sequence and even most proximal genes in operons lack a SD sequence. Seven different leadered transcripts devoid of a SD sequence were efficiently translated in vivo, including artificial 5′-UTRs of random sequences. Thus, an interaction of the 5′-UTRs of these leadered transcripts with the 16S rRNA could be excluded. Taken together, either a scanning mechanism similar to the mechanism of translation initiation operating in eukaryotes or a novel mechanism must operate on most leadered haloarchaeal transcripts.
Expression of the information encoded in the genome of an organism into its phenotype involves transcription of the DNA into messenger RNAs and translation of mRNAs into proteins. The textbook view is that an mRNA consists of an untranslated region (5′-UTR), an open reading frame encoding the protein, and another untranslated region (3′-UTR). We have determined the 5′-ends and the 3′-ends of 40 mRNAs of two haloarchaeal species and used this dataset to gain information about nucleotide elements important for transcription and translation. Two thirds of the mRNAs were devoid of a 5′-UTR, and therefore the major pathway for translation initiation in haloarchaea involves so-called leaderless transcripts. Very unexpectedly, most leadered mRNAs were found to be devoid of a sequence motif believed to be essential for translation initiation in bacteria and archaea (Shine-Dalgarno sequence). A bioinformatic genome analysis revealed that less than 10% of the genes contain a Shine-Dalgarno sequence. mRNAs lacking this motif were efficiently translated in vivo, including mRNAs with artificial 5′-UTRs of total random sequence. Thus, translation initiation on these mRNAs either involves a scanning mechanism similar to the mechanism operating in eukaryotes or a totally novel mechanism operating at least in haloarchaea.
Like the Eukarya and Bacteria, the Archaea also perform N glycosylation. Using the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii as a model system, a series of Agl proteins involved in the archaeal version of this posttranslational modification has been identified. In the present study, the participation of HVO_1517 in N glycosylation was considered, given its homology to a known component of the eukaryal N-glycosylation pathway and because of the genomic proximity of HVO_1517 to agl genes encoding known elements of the H. volcanii N-glycosylation process. By combining the deletion of HVO_1517 with mass spectrometric analysis of both dolichol phosphate monosaccharide-charged carriers and the S-layer glycoprotein, evidence was obtained showing the participation of HVO_1517, renamed AglJ, in adding the first hexose of the N-linked pentasaccharide decorating this reporter glycoprotein. The deletion of aglJ, however, did not fully prevent the attachment of a hexose residue to the S-layer glycoprotein. Moreover, in the absence of AglJ, the level of only one of the three monosaccharide-charged dolichol phosphate carriers detected in the cell was reduced. Nonetheless, in cells lacking AglJ, no further sugar subunits were added to the remaining monosaccharide-charged dolichol phosphate carriers or to the monosaccharide-modified S-layer glycoprotein, pointing to the importance of the sugar added through the actions of AglJ for proper N glycosylation. Finally, while aglJ can be deleted, H. volcanii surface layer integrity is compromised in the absence of the encoded protein.
Archaea, like Eukarya and Bacteria, are able to N glycosylate select protein targets. However, in contrast to relatively advanced understanding of the eukaryal N glycosylation process and the information being amassed on the bacterial process, little is known of this posttranslational modification in Archaea. Toward remedying this situation, the present report continues ongoing efforts to identify components involved in the N glycosylation of the Haloferax volcanii S-layer glycoprotein. By combining gene deletion together with mass spectrometry, AglE, originally identified as a homologue of murine Dpm1, was shown to play a role in the addition of the 190-Da sugar subunit of the novel pentasaccharide decorating the S-layer glycoprotein. Topological analysis of an AglE-based chimeric reporter assigns AglE as an integral membrane protein, with its N terminus and putative active site facing the cytoplasm. These finding, therefore, contribute to the developing picture of the N glycosylation pathway in Archaea.
The recent development of an efficient transformation method and shuttle vectors for Haloferax volcanii has set the stage for rapid progress in archaebacterial molecular biology. We describe a shuttle-expression vector that can be selected for and maintained in either H. volcanii or Escherichia coli and permits the expression of cloned genes in H. volcanii. The vector, pWL204, was constructed by incorporating an H. volcanii tRNA(Lys) gene promoter into a derivative of the H. volcanii-E. coli shuttle vector pWL102. The vector has been used to express a modified, intron-containing, H. mediterranei tRNA(Trp) gene (tRNA(Trp)-O167). Transcription from the tRNA(Lys) gene promoter in vivo was detected by Northern (RNA) analysis with an oligonucleotide probe complementary to the unique intron sequence of tRNA(Trp)-O167. Dependence of transcription on the tRNA(Lys) promoter was demonstrated by the absence of transcription when the promoter sequence was deleted from the vector and by mapping the transcription initiation site by primer extension.
A mutant resistant to the gyrase inhibitor novobiocin was selected from a halophilic archaebacterium belonging to the genus Haloferax. Chromosomal DNA from this mutant was able to transform wild-type cells to novobiocin resistance, and these transformants formed visible colonies in 3 to 4 days on selective plates. The resistance gene was isolated on a 6.7-kilobase DNA KpnI fragment, which was inserted into a cryptic multicopy plasmid (pHK2) derived from the same host strain. The recombinant plasmid transformed wild-type cells at a high efficiency (greater than 10(6)/micrograms), was stably maintained, and could readily be reisolated from transformants. It could also transform Halobacterium volcanii and appears to be a useful system for genetic analysis in halophilic archaebacteria.
Techniques for the transformation of halophilic archaebacteria have been developed recently and hold much promise for the characterization of these organisms at the molecular level. In order to understand genome organization and gene regulation in halobacteria, we have begun the characterization of genes involved in amino acid biosynthesis in Halobacterium (Haloferax) volcanii. These studies are facilitated by the many auxotrophic mutants of H. volcanii that have been isolated. In this project we demonstrate that cosmid DNA prepared from Escherichia coli can be used to transform an H. volcanii histidine auxotroph to prototrophy. A set of cosmid clones covering most of the genome of H. volcanii was used to isolate the gene which is defective in H. volcanii WR256. Subcloning identified a 1.6-kilobase region responsible for transformation. DNA sequence analysis of this region revealed an open reading frame encoding a putative protein 361 amino acids in length. A search of the DNA and protein data bases revealed that this open reading frame encodes histidinol-phosphate aminotransferase (EC 22.214.171.124), the sequence of which is also known for E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Across evolution, type I signal peptidases are responsible for the cleavage of secretory signal peptides from proteins following their translocation across membranes. In Archaea, type I signal peptidases combine domain-specific features with traits found in either their eukaryal or bacterial counterparts. Eukaryal and bacterial type I signal peptidases differ in terms of catalytic mechanism, pharmacological profile, and oligomeric status. In this study, genes encoding Sec11a and Sec11b, two type I signal peptidases of the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii, were cloned. Although both genes are expressed in cells grown in rich medium, gene deletion approaches suggest that Sec11b, but not Sec11a, is essential. For purification purposes, tagged versions of the protein products of both genes were expressed in transformed Haloferax volcanii, with Sec11a and Sec11b being fused to a cellulose-binding domain capable of interaction with cellulose in hypersaline surroundings. By employing an in vitro signal peptidase assay designed for use with high salt concentrations such as those encountered by halophilic archaea such as Haloferax volcanii, the signal peptide-cleaving activities of both isolated membranes and purified Sec11a and Sec11b were addressed. The results show that the two enzymes differentially cleave the assay substrate, raising the possibility that the Sec11a and Sec11b serve distinct physiological functions.
The unusual physiological properties of archaea (e.g., growth in
extreme salt concentration, temperature and pH) make them ideal
platforms for metabolic engineering. Towards the ultimate goal of
modifying an archaeon to produce bioethanol or other useful products,
the pyruvate decarboxylase gene of Zymomonas mobilis
(Zm pdc) was expressed in Haloferax
volcanii. This gene has been used successfully to channel
pyruvate to ethanol in various Gram-negative bacteria, including
Escherichia coli. Although the ionic strength of the
H. volcanii cytosol differs over 15-fold from that of
E. coli, gel filtration and circular dichroism
revealed no difference in secondary structure between the ZmPDC
protein isolated from either of these hosts. Like the E.
coli purified enzyme, ZmPDC from H. volcanii
catalyzed the nonoxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate. A decrease in
the amount of soluble ZmPDC protein was detected as H.
volcanii transitioned from log phase to late stationary phase
that was inversely proportional to the amount of
pdc-specific mRNA. Based on these results, proteins
from non-halophilic organisms can be actively synthesized in
haloarchaea; however, post-transcriptional mechanisms present in
stationary phase appear to limit the amount of recombinant protein
biotechnology; ethanol; halophile; metabolism; molecular biology; recombinant protein
The halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii has a multireplicon genome, consisting of a main chromosome, three secondary chromosomes, and a plasmid. Genes for the initiator protein Cdc6/Orc1, which are commonly located adjacent to archaeal origins of DNA replication, are found on all replicons except plasmid pHV2. However, prediction of DNA replication origins in H. volcanii is complicated by the fact that this species has no less than 14 cdc6/orc1 genes. We have used a combination of genetic, biochemical, and bioinformatic approaches to map DNA replication origins in H. volcanii. Five autonomously replicating sequences were found adjacent to cdc6/orc1 genes and replication initiation point mapping was used to confirm that these sequences function as bidirectional DNA replication origins in vivo. Pulsed field gel analyses revealed that cdc6/orc1-associated replication origins are distributed not only on the main chromosome (2.9 Mb) but also on pHV1 (86 kb), pHV3 (442 kb), and pHV4 (690 kb) replicons. Gene inactivation studies indicate that linkage of the initiator gene to the origin is not required for replication initiation, and genetic tests with autonomously replicating plasmids suggest that the origin located on pHV1 and pHV4 may be dominant to the principal chromosomal origin. The replication origins we have identified appear to show a functional hierarchy or differential usage, which might reflect the different replication requirements of their respective chromosomes. We propose that duplication of H. volcanii replication origins was a prerequisite for the multireplicon structure of this genome, and that this might provide a means for chromosome-specific replication control under certain growth conditions. Our observations also suggest that H. volcanii is an ideal organism for studying how replication of four replicons is regulated in the context of the archaeal cell cycle.
Haloferax volcanii is a member of the archaea, which are renowned for thriving in extreme environments. Archaea have circular chromosomes like bacteria but use enzymes similar to those found in eukaryotes to replicate their DNA. Few archaeal species have systems for genetics, and this has limited our understanding of DNA replication. We used genetics to map the chromosomal sites (origins) at which DNA replication initiates in H. volcanii. This species has a multipart genome comprising one main chromosome, three secondary chromosomes, and a plasmid. Five DNA replication origins were found and confirmed to function in vivo. All are adjacent to genes for the initiator protein Cdc6/Orc1, a common feature of archaeal replication origins. Two of the sequences are located on the main chromosome, confirming that multiple origins are often used to replicate circular chromosomes in archaea. Intriguingly, one of the origins from a secondary chromosome appears “dominant” to the principal chromosomal origin, suggesting either a hierarchy or differential usage of origins. This might reflect the different replication requirements of their respective chromosomes. Given the ease of genetic manipulation, H. volcanii holds great promise for studying how replication of four chromosomes is regulated in the context of the archaeal cell cycle.
Protein acetylation and deacetylation reactions are involved in many regulatory processes in eukaryotes. Recently, it was found that similar processes occur in bacteria and archaea. Sequence analysis of the genome of the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii led to the identification of three putative protein acetyltransferases belonging to the Gcn5 family, Pat1, Pat2, and Elp3, and two deacetylases, Sir2 and HdaI. Intriguingly, the gene that encodes HdaI shares an operon with an archaeal histone homolog. We performed gene knockouts to determine whether the genes encoding these putative acetyltransferases and deacetylases are essential. A sir2 deletion mutant was able to grow normally, whereas an hdaI deletion mutant was nonviable. The latter is consistent with the finding that trichostatin A, a specific inhibitor of HdaI, inhibits cell growth in a concentration-dependent manner. We also showed that each of the acetyltransferases by itself is dispensable for growth but that deletion of both pat2 and elp3 could not be achieved. The corresponding genes are therefore “synthetic lethals,” and the protein acetyltransferases probably have a common and essential substrate.