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1.  Novel Insights into the Diversity of Catabolic Metabolism from Ten Haloarchaeal Genomes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20237.
Background
The extremely halophilic archaea are present worldwide in saline environments and have important biotechnological applications. Ten complete genomes of haloarchaea are now available, providing an opportunity for comparative analysis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We report here the comparative analysis of five newly sequenced haloarchaeal genomes with five previously published ones. Whole genome trees based on protein sequences provide strong support for deep relationships between the ten organisms. Using a soft clustering approach, we identified 887 protein clusters present in all halophiles. Of these core clusters, 112 are not found in any other archaea and therefore constitute the haloarchaeal signature. Four of the halophiles were isolated from water, and four were isolated from soil or sediment. Although there are few habitat-specific clusters, the soil/sediment halophiles tend to have greater capacity for polysaccharide degradation, siderophore synthesis, and cell wall modification. Halorhabdus utahensis and Haloterrigena turkmenica encode over forty glycosyl hydrolases each, and may be capable of breaking down naturally occurring complex carbohydrates. H. utahensis is specialized for growth on carbohydrates and has few amino acid degradation pathways. It uses the non-oxidative pentose phosphate pathway instead of the oxidative pathway, giving it more flexibility in the metabolism of pentoses.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020237
PMCID: PMC3102087  PMID: 21633497
2.  Amino Acid Substitutions in Cold-Adapted Proteins from Halorubrum lacusprofundi, an Extremely Halophilic Microbe from Antarctica 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58587.
The halophilic Archaeon Halorubrum lacusprofundi, isolated from the perennially cold and hypersaline Deep Lake in Antarctica, was recently sequenced and compared to 12 Haloarchaea from temperate climates by comparative genomics. Amino acid substitutions for 604 H. lacusprofundi proteins belonging to conserved haloarchaeal orthologous groups (cHOGs) were determined and found to occur at 7.85% of positions invariant in proteins from mesophilic Haloarchaea. The following substitutions were observed most frequently: (a) glutamic acid with aspartic acid or alanine; (b) small polar residues with other small polar or non-polar amino acids; (c) small non-polar residues with other small non-polar residues; (d) aromatic residues, especially tryptophan, with other aromatic residues; and (e) some larger polar residues with other similar residues. Amino acid substitutions for a cold-active H. lacusprofundi β-galactosidase were then examined in the context of a homology modeled structure at residues invariant in homologous enzymes from mesophilic Haloarchaea. Similar substitutions were observed as in the genome-wide approach, with the surface accessible regions of β-galactosidase displaying reduced acidity and increased hydrophobicity, and internal regions displaying mainly subtle changes among smaller non-polar and polar residues. These findings are consistent with H. lacusprofundi proteins displaying amino acid substitutions that increase structural flexibility and protein function at low temperature. We discuss the likely mechanisms of protein adaptation to a cold, hypersaline environment on Earth, with possible relevance to life elsewhere.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058587
PMCID: PMC3594186  PMID: 23536799
3.  Sequencing of Seven Haloarchaeal Genomes Reveals Patterns of Genomic Flux 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41389.
We report the sequencing of seven genomes from two haloarchaeal genera, Haloferax and Haloarcula. Ease of cultivation and the existence of well-developed genetic and biochemical tools for several diverse haloarchaeal species make haloarchaea a model group for the study of archaeal biology. The unique physiological properties of these organisms also make them good candidates for novel enzyme discovery for biotechnological applications. Seven genomes were sequenced to ∼20×coverage and assembled to an average of 50 contigs (range 5 scaffolds - 168 contigs). Comparisons of protein-coding gene compliments revealed large-scale differences in COG functional group enrichment between these genera. Analysis of genes encoding machinery for DNA metabolism reveals genera-specific expansions of the general transcription factor TATA binding protein as well as a history of extensive duplication and horizontal transfer of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen. Insights gained from this study emphasize the importance of haloarchaea for investigation of archaeal biology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041389
PMCID: PMC3404096  PMID: 22848480
4.  Diversity and evolution of multiple orc/cdc6-adjacent replication origins in haloarchaea 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:478.
Background
While multiple replication origins have been observed in archaea, considerably less is known about their evolutionary processes. Here, we performed a comparative analysis of the predicted (proved in part) orc/cdc6-associated replication origins in 15 completely sequenced haloarchaeal genomes to investigate the diversity and evolution of replication origins in halophilic Archaea.
Results
Multiple orc/cdc6-associated replication origins were predicted in all of the analyzed haloarchaeal genomes following the identification of putative ORBs (origin recognition boxes) that are associated with orc/cdc6 genes. Five of these predicted replication origins in Haloarcula hispanica were experimentally confirmed via autonomous replication activities. Strikingly, several predicted replication origins in H. hispanica and Haloarcula marismortui are located in the distinct regions of their highly homologous chromosomes, suggesting that these replication origins might have been introduced as parts of new genomic content. A comparison of the origin-associated Orc/Cdc6 homologs and the corresponding predicted ORB elements revealed that the replication origins in a given haloarchaeon are quite diverse, while different haloarchaea can share a few conserved origins. Phylogenetic and genomic context analyses suggested that there is an original replication origin (oriC1) that was inherited from the ancestor of archaea, and several other origins were likely evolved and/or translocated within the haloarchaeal species.
Conclusion
This study provides detailed information about the diversity of multiple orc/cdc6-associated replication origins in haloarchaeal genomes, and provides novel insight into the evolution of multiple replication origins in Archaea.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-478
PMCID: PMC3528665  PMID: 22978470
5.  Mutational and Bioinformatic Analysis of Haloarchaeal Lipobox-Containing Proteins 
Archaea  2010;2010:410975.
A conserved lipid-modified cysteine found in a protein motif commonly referred to as a lipobox mediates the membrane anchoring of a subset of proteins transported across the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane via the Sec pathway. Sequenced haloarchaeal genomes encode many putative lipoproteins and recent studies have confirmed the importance of the conserved lipobox cysteine for signal peptide processing of three lipobox-containing proteins in the model archaeon Haloferax volcanii. We have extended these in vivo analyses to additional Hfx. volcanii substrates, supporting our previous in silico predictions and confirming the diversity of predicted Hfx. volcanii lipoproteins. Moreover, using extensive comparative secretome analyses, we identified genes encodining putative lipoproteins across a wide range of archaeal species. While our in silico analyses, supported by in vivo data, indicate that most haloarchaeal lipoproteins are Tat substrates, these analyses also predict that many crenarchaeal species lack lipoproteins altogether and that other archaea, such as nonhalophilic euryarchaeal species, transport lipoproteins via the Sec pathway. To facilitate the identification of genes that encode potential haloarchaeal Tat-lipoproteins, we have developed TatLipo, a bioinformatic tool designed to detect lipoboxes in haloarchaeal Tat signal peptides. Our results provide a strong foundation for future studies aimed at identifying components of the archaeal lipoprotein biogenesis pathway.
doi:10.1155/2010/410975
PMCID: PMC2945643  PMID: 20886060
6.  Essential and non-essential DNA replication genes in the model halophilic Archaeon, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 
BMC Genetics  2007;8:31.
Background
Information transfer systems in Archaea, including many components of the DNA replication machinery, are similar to those found in eukaryotes. Functional assignments of archaeal DNA replication genes have been primarily based upon sequence homology and biochemical studies of replisome components, but few genetic studies have been conducted thus far. We have developed a tractable genetic system for knockout analysis of genes in the model halophilic archaeon, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, and used it to determine which DNA replication genes are essential.
Results
Using a directed in-frame gene knockout method in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, we examined nineteen genes predicted to be involved in DNA replication. Preliminary bioinformatic analysis of the large haloarchaeal Orc/Cdc6 family, related to eukaryotic Orc1 and Cdc6, showed five distinct clades of Orc/Cdc6 proteins conserved in all sequenced haloarchaea. Of ten orc/cdc6 genes in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, only two were found to be essential, orc10, on the large chromosome, and orc2, on the minichromosome, pNRC200. Of the three replicative-type DNA polymerase genes, two were essential: the chromosomally encoded B family, polB1, and the chromosomally encoded euryarchaeal-specific D family, polD1/D2 (formerly called polA1/polA2 in the Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 genome sequence). The pNRC200-encoded B family polymerase, polB2, was non-essential. Accessory genes for DNA replication initiation and elongation factors, including the putative replicative helicase, mcm, the eukaryotic-type DNA primase, pri1/pri2, the DNA polymerase sliding clamp, pcn, and the flap endonuclease, rad2, were all essential. Targeted genes were classified as non-essential if knockouts were obtained and essential based on statistical analysis and/or by demonstrating the inability to isolate chromosomal knockouts except in the presence of a complementing plasmid copy of the gene.
Conclusion
The results showed that ten out of nineteen eukaryotic-type DNA replication genes are essential for Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, consistent with their requirement for DNA replication. The essential genes code for two of ten Orc/Cdc6 proteins, two out of three DNA polymerases, the MCM helicase, two DNA primase subunits, the DNA polymerase sliding clamp, and the flap endonuclease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2156-8-31
PMCID: PMC1906834  PMID: 17559652
7.  New, Closely Related Haloarchaeal Viral Elements with Different Nucleic Acid Types▿ ‡  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(7):3682-3689.
During the search for haloarchaeal viruses, we isolated and characterized a new pleomorphic lipid-containing virus, Haloarcula hispanica pleomorphic virus 1 (HHPV-1), that infects the halophilic archaeon Haloarcula hispanica. The virus contains a circular double-stranded DNA genome of 8,082 bp in size. The organization of the genome shows remarkable synteny and amino acid sequence similarity to the genome and predicted proteins of the halovirus HRPV-1, a pleomorphic single-stranded DNA virus that infects a halophilic archaeon Halorubrum sp. Analysis of the two halovirus sequences, as well as the entire nucleotide sequence of the 10.8-kb pHK2-plasmid and a 12.6-kb chromosomal region in Haloferax volcanii, allows us to suggest a new group of closely related viruses with genomes of either single-stranded or double-stranded DNA. Currently, closely related viruses are considered to have the same genome type. Our observation clearly contradicts this categorization and indicates that we should reconsider the way we classify viruses. Our results also provide a new example of related viruses where the viral structural proteins have not diverged as much as the proteins associated with genome replication. This result further strengthens the proposal for higher-order classification to be based on virion architecture rather than on genome type or replication mechanism.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01879-09
PMCID: PMC2838124  PMID: 20089654
8.  2′-O-methylation of the wobble residue of elongator pre-tRNAMet in Haloferax volcanii is guided by a box C/D RNA containing unique features 
RNA Biology  2011;8(5):782-791.
The wobble residue C34 of Haloferax volcanii elongator tRNAMet is 2′-O-methylated. Neither a protein enzyme nor a guide RNA for this modification has been described. In this study, we show that this methylation is guided by a box C/D RNA targeting the intron-containing precursor of the tRNA. This guide RNA is starkly different from its homologs. This unique RNA of approximately 75 bases, named sR-tMet, is encoded in the genomes of H. volcanii and several other haloarchaea. A unique feature of sR-tMet is that the mature RNA in H. volcanii is substantially larger than its predicted size, whereas those in other haloarchaea are as predicted. While the 5′-ends of all tested haloarchaeal sR-tMets are equivalent, H. volcanii sR-tMet possesses an additional 51-base extension at its 3′ end. This extension is present in the precursor but not in the mature sR-tMet of Halobacterium sp, suggesting differential 3′-end processing of sR-tMet in these two closely related organisms. Archaeal box C/D RNAs mostly contain a K-loop at the C′/D′ motif. Another unique feature of sR-tMet is that its C′/D′ motif lacks either a conventional K-turn or a K-loop. Instead, it contains two tandem, sheared G•A base pairs and a pyrimidine-pyrimidine pair in the non-canonical stem; the latter may form an alternative K-turn. Gel shift assays indicate that the L7Ae protein can form a stable complex with this unusual C′/D′ motif, suggesting a novel RNA structure for L7Ae interaction.
doi:10.4161/rna.8.5.16015
PMCID: PMC3256356  PMID: 21654217
sRNA; snoRNA; Guide RNA; tRNA modification; RNA 2′-O-methylation; RNA-guided modification; Ribonucleoprotein; Box C/D RNA
9.  A traditional Japanese-style salt field is a niche for haloarchaeal strains that can survive in 0.5% salt solution 
Saline Systems  2007;3:2.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1746-1448-3-2
PMCID: PMC1828056  PMID: 17346353
10.  Responses of Haloarchaea to Simulated Microgravity 
Astrobiology  2011;11(3):199-205.
Abstract
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.
doi:10.1089/ast.2010.0536
PMCID: PMC3079168  PMID: 21417742
11.  The crystal structure of Haloferax volcanii proliferating cell nuclear antigen reveals unique surface charge characteristics due to halophilic adaptation 
Background
The high intracellular salt concentration required to maintain a halophilic lifestyle poses challenges to haloarchaeal proteins that must stay soluble, stable and functional in this extreme environment. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) is a fundamental protein involved in maintaining genome integrity, with roles in both DNA replication and repair. To investigate the halophilic adaptation of such a key protein we have crystallised and solved the structure of Haloferax volcanii PCNA (HvPCNA) to a resolution of 2.0 Å.
Results
The overall architecture of HvPCNA is very similar to other known PCNAs, which are highly structurally conserved. Three commonly observed adaptations in halophilic proteins are higher surface acidity, bound ions and increased numbers of intermolecular ion pairs (in oligomeric proteins). HvPCNA possesses the former two adaptations but not the latter, despite functioning as a homotrimer. Strikingly, the positive surface charge considered key to PCNA's role as a sliding clamp is dramatically reduced in the halophilic protein. Instead, bound cations within the solvation shell of HvPCNA may permit sliding along negatively charged DNA by reducing electrostatic repulsion effects.
Conclusion
The extent to which individual proteins adapt to halophilic conditions varies, presumably due to their diverse characteristics and roles within the cell. The number of ion pairs observed in the HvPCNA monomer-monomer interface was unexpectedly low. This may reflect the fact that the trimer is intrinsically stable over a wide range of salt concentrations and therefore additional modifications for trimer maintenance in high salt conditions are not required. Halophilic proteins frequently bind anions and cations and in HvPCNA cation binding may compensate for the remarkable reduction in positive charge in the pore region, to facilitate functional interactions with DNA. In this way, HvPCNA may harness its environment as opposed to simply surviving in extreme halophilic conditions.
doi:10.1186/1472-6807-9-55
PMCID: PMC2737543  PMID: 19698123
12.  Investigating the Effects of Simulated Martian Ultraviolet Radiation on Halococcus dombrowskii and Other Extremely Halophilic Archaebacteria 
Astrobiology  2009;9(1):104-112.
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.
doi:10.1089/ast.2007.0234
PMCID: PMC3182532  PMID: 19215203
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
13.  HaloWeb: the haloarchaeal genomes database 
Saline Systems  2010;6:12.
Background
Complete genome sequencing together with post-genomic studies provide the opportunity for a comprehensive 'systems biology' understanding of model organisms. For maximum effectiveness, an integrated database containing genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data is necessary.
Description
To improve data access and facilitate functional genomic studies on haloarchaea in our laboratory, a dedicated database and website, named HaloWeb, was developed. It incorporates all finished and publicly released haloarchaeal genomes, including gene, protein and RNA sequences and annotation data, as well as other features such as insertion element sequences. The HaloWeb database was designed for easy data access and mining, and includes tools for tasks such as genome map generation, sequence extraction, and sequence editing. Popular resources at other sites, e.g., NCBI PubMed and BLAST, COG and KOG protein clusters, KEGG pathways, and GTOP structures were dynamically linked. The HaloWeb site is located at http://halo4.umbi.umd.edu, and at a mirror site, http://halo5.umbi.umd.edu, with all public genomic data and NCBI, KEGG, and GTOP links available for use by the academic community. The database is curated and updated on a regular basis.
Conclusions
The HaloWeb site includes all completely sequenced haloarchaeal genomes from public databases. It is currently being used as a tool for comparative genomics, including analysis of gene and genome structure, organization, and function. The database and website are up-to-date resources for researchers worldwide.
doi:10.1186/1746-1448-6-12
PMCID: PMC3023673  PMID: 21192823
14.  Ancient origin of the divergent forms of leucyl-tRNA synthetases in the Halobacteriales 
Background
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has greatly impacted the genealogical history of many lineages, particularly for prokaryotes, with genes frequently moving in and out of a line of descent. Many genes that were acquired by a lineage in the past likely originated from ancestral relatives that have since gone extinct. During the course of evolution, HGT has played an essential role in the origin and dissemination of genetic and metabolic novelty.
Results
Three divergent forms of leucyl-tRNA synthetase (LeuRS) exist in the archaeal order Halobacteriales, commonly known as haloarchaea. Few haloarchaeal genomes have the typical archaeal form of this enzyme and phylogenetic analysis indicates it clusters within the Euryarchaeota as expected. The majority of sequenced halobacterial genomes possess a bacterial form of LeuRS. Phylogenetic reconstruction puts this larger group of haloarchaea at the base of the bacterial domain. The most parsimonious explanation is that an ancient transfer of LeuRS took place from an organism related to the ancestor of the bacterial domain to the haloarchaea. The bacterial form of LeuRS further underwent gene duplications and/or gene transfers within the haloarchaea, with some genomes possessing two distinct types of bacterial LeuRS. The cognate tRNALeu also reveals two distinct clusters for the haloarchaea; however, these tRNALeu clusters do not coincide with the groupings found in the LeuRS tree, revealing that LeuRS evolved independently of its cognate tRNA.
Conclusions
The study of leucyl-tRNA synthetase in haloarchaea illustrates the importance of gene transfer originating in lineages that went extinct since the transfer occurred. The haloarchaeal LeuRS and tRNALeu did not co-evolve.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-85
PMCID: PMC3436685  PMID: 22694720
15.  The Complete Genome Sequence of Natrinema sp. J7-2, a Haloarchaeon Capable of Growth on Synthetic Media without Amino Acid Supplements 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41621.
Natrinema sp. J7-2 is an extreme haloarchaeon capable of growing on synthetic media without amino acid supplements. Here we report the complete genome sequence of Natrinema sp. J7-2 which is composed of a 3,697,626-bp chromosome and a 95,989-bp plasmid pJ7-I. This is the first complete genome sequence of a member of the genus Natrinema. We demonstrate that Natrinema sp. J7-2 can use gluconate, glycerol, or acetate as the sole carbon source and that its genome encodes complete metabolic pathways for assimilating these substrates. The biosynthetic pathways for all 20 amino acids have been reconstructed, and we discuss a possible evolutionary relationship between the haloarchaeal arginine synthetic pathway and the bacterial lysine synthetic pathway. The genome harbors the genes for assimilation of ammonium and nitrite, but not nitrate, and has a denitrification pathway to reduce nitrite to N2O. Comparative genomic analysis suggests that most sequenced haloarchaea employ the TrkAH system, rather than the Kdp system, to actively uptake potassium. The genomic analysis also reveals that one of the three CRISPR loci in the Natrinema sp. J7-2 chromosome is located in an integrative genetic element and is probably propagated via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Finally, our phylogenetic analysis of haloarchaeal genomes provides clues about evolutionary relationships of haloarchaea.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041621
PMCID: PMC3402447  PMID: 22911826
16.  Experimental Characterization of Cis-Acting Elements Important for Translation and Transcription in Halophilic Archaea 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(12):e229.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030229
PMCID: PMC2151090  PMID: 18159946
17.  Experimental Characterization of Cis-Acting Elements Important for Translation and Transcription in Halophilic Archaea 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(12):e229.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030229
PMCID: PMC2151090  PMID: 18159946
18.  Quantifying Homologous Replacement of Loci between Haloarchaeal Species 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;4(12):1223-1244.
In vitro studies of the haloarchaeal genus Haloferax have demonstrated their ability to frequently exchange DNA between species, whereas rates of homologous recombination estimated from natural populations in the genus Halorubrum are high enough to maintain random association of alleles between five loci. To quantify the effects of gene transfer and recombination of commonly held (relaxed core) genes during the evolution of the class Halobacteria (haloarchaea), we reconstructed the history of 21 genomes representing all major groups. Using a novel algorithm and a concatenated ribosomal protein phylogeny as a reference, we created a directed horizontal genetic transfer (HGT) network of contemporary and ancestral genomes. Gene order analysis revealed that 90% of testable HGTs were by direct homologous replacement, rather than nonhomologous integration followed by a loss. Network analysis revealed an inverse log-linear relationship between HGT frequency and ribosomal protein evolutionary distance that is maintained across the deepest divergences in Halobacteria. We use this mathematical relationship to estimate the total transfers and amino acid substitutions delivered by HGTs in each genome, providing a measure of chimerism. For the relaxed core genes of each genome, we conservatively estimate that 11–20% of their evolution occurred in other haloarchaea. Our findings are unexpected, because the transfer and homologous recombination of relaxed core genes between members of the class Halobacteria disrupts the coevolution of genes; however, the generation of new combinations of divergent but functionally related genes may lead to adaptive phenotypes not available through cumulative mutations and recombination within a single population.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evs098
PMCID: PMC3542582  PMID: 23160063
homologous recombination; horizontal gene transfer; lateral gene transfer; fitness landscape; populations; microbial evolution
19.  Closely Related Archaeal Haloarcula hispanica Icosahedral Viruses HHIV-2 and SH1 Have Nonhomologous Genes Encoding Host Recognition Functions 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(9):4734-4742.
Studies on viral capsid architectures and coat protein folds have revealed the evolutionary lineages of viruses branching to all three domains of life. A widespread group of icosahedral tailless viruses, the PRD1-adenovirus lineage, was the first to be established. A double β-barrel fold for a single major capsid protein is characteristic of these viruses. Similar viruses carrying genes coding for two major capsid proteins with a more complex structure, such as Thermus phage P23-77 and haloarchaeal virus SH1, have been isolated. Here, we studied the host range, life cycle, biochemical composition, and genomic sequence of a new isolate, Haloarcula hispanica icosahedral virus 2 (HHIV-2), which resembles SH1 despite being isolated from a different location. Comparative analysis of these viruses revealed that their overall architectures are very similar except that the genes for the receptor recognition vertex complexes are unrelated even though these viruses infect the same hosts.
doi:10.1128/JVI.06666-11
PMCID: PMC3347397  PMID: 22357274
20.  Complete genome sequence of Halopiger xanaduensis type strain (SH-6T) 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2012;6(1):31-42.
Halopiger xanaduensis is the type species of the genus Halopiger and belongs to the euryarchaeal family Halobacteriaceae. H. xanaduensis strain SH-6, which is designated as the type strain, was isolated from the sediment of a salt lake in Inner Mongolia, Lake Shangmatala. Like other members of the family Halobacteriaceae, it is an extreme halophile requiring at least 2.5 M salt for growth. We report here the sequencing and annotation of the 4,355,268 bp genome, which includes one chromosome and three plasmids. This genome is part of a Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Community Sequencing Program (CSP) project to sequence diverse haloarchaeal genomes.
doi:10.4056/sigs.2505605
PMCID: PMC3368405  PMID: 22675596
Archaea; Euryarchaeota; Halobacteriaceae; extreme halophile
21.  Haloarchaeal-Type β-Ketothiolases Involved in Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate-co-3-Hydroxyvalerate) Synthesis in Haloferax mediterranei 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5104-5111.
The key enzymes for poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) biosynthesis in haloarchaea have been identified except the β-ketothiolase(s), which condense two acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) molecules to acetoacetyl-CoA, or one acetyl-CoA and one propionyl-CoA to 3-ketovaleryl-CoA. Whole-genome analysis has revealed eight potential β-ketothiolase genes in the haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei, among which the PHBV-specific BktB and PhaA were identified by gene knockout and complementation analysis. Unlike all known bacterial counterparts encoded by a single gene, the haloarchaeal PhaA that was involved in acetoacetyl-CoA generation, was composed of two different types of subunits (PhaAα and PhaAβ) and encoded by the cotranscribed HFX_1023 (phaAα) and HFX_1022 (phaAβ) genes. Similarly, the BktB that was involved in generation of acetoacetyl-CoA and 3-ketovaleryl-CoA, was also composed of two different types of subunits (BktBα and BktBβ) and encoded by cotranscribed HFX_6004 (bktBα) and HFX_6003 (bktBβ). BktBα and PhaAα were the catalytic subunits and determined substrate specificities of BktB and PhaA, respectively. Their catalytic triad “Ser-His-His” was distinct from the bacterial “Cys-His-Cys.” BktBβ and PhaAβ both contained an oligosaccharide-binding fold domain, which was essential for the β-ketothiolase activity. Interestingly, BktBβ and PhaAβ were functionally interchangeable, although PhaAβ preferred functioning with PhaAα. In addition, BktB showed biotechnological potential for the production of PHBV with the desired 3-hydroxyvalerate fraction in haloarchaea. This is the first report of the haloarchaeal type of PHBV-specific β-ketothiolases, which are distinct from their bacterial counterparts in both subunit composition and catalytic residues.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01370-13
PMCID: PMC3753943  PMID: 23793631
22.  An Archaeal Chromosomal Autonomously Replicating Sequence Element from an Extreme Halophile, Halobacterium sp. Strain NRC-1 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(20):5959-5966.
We report on the identification and first cloning of an autonomously replicating sequence element from the chromosome of an archaeon, the extreme halophile Halobacterium strain NRC-1. The putative replication origin was identified by association with the orc7 gene and replication ability in the host strain, demonstrated by cloning into a nonreplicating plasmid. Deletion analysis showed that sequences located up to 750 bp upstream of the orc7 gene translational start, plus the orc7 gene and 50 bp downstream, are sufficient to endow the plasmid with replication ability, as judged by expression of a plasmid-encoded mevinolin resistance selectable marker and plasmid recovery after transformation. Sequences located proximal to the two other chromosomally carried haloarchaeal orc genes (orc6 and orc8) are not able to promote efficient autonomous replication. Located within the 750-bp region upstream of orc7 is a nearly perfect inverted repeat of 31 bp, which flanks an extremely AT-rich (44%) stretch of 189 bp. The replication ability of the plasmid was lost when one copy of the inverted repeat was deleted. Additionally, the inverted repeat structure near orc7 homologs in the genomic sequences of two other halophiles, Haloarcula marismortui and Haloferax volcanii, is highly conserved. Our results indicate that, in halophilic archaea, a chromosomal origin of replication is physically linked to orc7 homologs and that this element is sufficient to promote autonomous replication. We discuss the finding of a functional haloarchaeal origin in relation to the large number of orc1-cdc6 homologs identified in the genomes of all haloarchaea to date.
doi:10.1128/JB.185.20.5959-5966.2003
PMCID: PMC225043  PMID: 14526006
23.  Culturable halophilic archaea at the initial and crystallization stages of salt production in a natural solar saltern of Goa, India 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:15.
Background
Goa is a coastal state in India and salt making is being practiced for many years. This investigation aimed in determining the culturable haloarchaeal diversity during two different phases of salt production in a natural solar saltern of Ribandar, Goa. Water and sediment samples were collected from the saltern during pre-salt harvesting phase and salt harvesting phase. Salinity and pH of the sampling site was determined. Isolates were obtained by plating of the samples on complex and synthetic haloarchaeal media. Morphology of the isolates was determined using Gram staining and electron microscopy. Response of cells to distilled water was studied spectrophotometrically at 600nm. Molecular identification of the isolates was performed by sequencing the 16S rRNA.
Results
Salinity of salt pans varied from 3-4% (non-salt production phase) to 30% (salt production phase) and pH varied from 7.0-8.0. Seven haloarchaeal strains were isolated from water and sediment samples during non-salt production phase and seventeen haloarchaeal strains were isolated during the salt production phase. All the strains stained uniformly Gram negative. The orange-red acetone extract of the pigments showed similar spectrophotometric profile with absorption maxima at 393, 474, 501 and 535 nm. All isolates obtained from the salt dilute phase were grouped within the genus Halococcus. This was validated using both total lipid profiling and 16S rRNA data sequencing. The isolates obtained from pre-salt harvesting phase were resistant to lysis. 16S rRNA data showed that organisms belonging to Halorubrum, Haloarcula, Haloferax and Halococcus genera were obtained during the salt concentrated phase. The isolates obtained from salt harvesting phase showed varied lysis on suspension in distilled water and /or 3.5% NaCl.
Conclusion
Salterns in Goa are transiently operated during post monsoon season from January to May. During the pre-salt harvesting phase, all the isolates obtained belonged to Halococcus sp. During the salt harvesting phase, isolates belonging to Halorubrum, Haloarcula, Haloferax and Halococcus genera were obtained. This study clearly indicates that Halococcus sp. dominates during the low salinity conditions.
doi:10.1186/2046-9063-8-15
PMCID: PMC3444409  PMID: 22747590
Archaea; Haloarchaea; Hypersaline; Solar saltern
24.  Extremely halophilic archaea and the issue of long-term microbial survival 
Halophilic archaebacteria (haloarchaea) thrive in environments with salt concentrations approaching saturation, such as natural brines, the Dead Sea, alkaline salt lakes and marine solar salterns; they have also been isolated from rock salt of great geological age (195–250 million years). An overview of their taxonomy, including novel isolates from rock salt, is presented here; in addition, some of their unique characteristics and physiological adaptations to environments of low water activity are reviewed. The issue of extreme long-term microbial survival is considered and its implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. The development of detection methods for subterranean haloarchaea, which might also be applicable to samples from future missions to space, is presented.
doi:10.1007/s11157-006-0007-y
PMCID: PMC3188376  PMID: 21984879
Extreme halophiles; Haloarchaea; Life detection; Microbial longevity; Salt mines; Salt sediments; Space missions; Subterranean; Taxonomy of halobacteriaceae
25.  Sequence analysis of an Archaeal virus isolated from a hypersaline lake in Inner Mongolia, China 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:410.
Background
We are profoundly ignorant about the diversity of viruses that infect the domain Archaea. Less than 100 have been identified and described and very few of these have had their genomic sequences determined. Here we report the genomic sequence of a previously undescribed archaeal virus.
Results
Haloarchaeal strains with 16S rRNA gene sequences 98% identical to Halorubrum saccharovorum were isolated from a hypersaline lake in Inner Mongolia. Two lytic viruses infecting these were isolated from the lake water. The BJ1 virus is described in this paper. It has an icosahedral head and tail morphology and most likely a linear double stranded DNA genome exhibiting terminal redundancy. Its genome sequence has 42,271 base pairs with a GC content of ~65 mol%. The genome of BJ1 is predicted to encode 70 ORFs, including one for a tRNA. Fifty of the seventy ORFs had no identity to data base entries; twenty showed sequence identity matches to archaeal viruses and to haloarchaea. ORFs possibly coding for an origin of replication complex, integrase, helicase and structural capsid proteins were identified. Evidence for viral integration was obtained.
Conclusion
The virus described here has a very low sequence identity to any previously described virus. Fifty of the seventy ORFs could not be annotated in any way based on amino acid identities with sequences already present in the databases. Determining functions for ORFs such as these is probably easier using a simple virus as a model system.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-410
PMCID: PMC2194725  PMID: 17996081

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