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1.  Extremophiles and their application to veterinary medicine 
Irish Veterinary Journal  2004;57(6):348-354.
Extremophiles are organisms that can grow and thrive in harsh conditions, e.g., extremes of temperature, pH, salinity, radiation, pressure and oxygen tension. Thermophilic, halophilic and radiation-resistant organisms are all microbes, some of which are able to withstand multiple extremes. Psychrophiles, or cold-loving organisms, include not only microbes, but fish that live in polar waters and animals that can withstand freezing. Extremophiles are structurally adapted at a molecular level to withstand these conditions. Thermophiles have particularly stable proteins and cell membranes, psychrophiles have flexible cellular proteins and membranes and/or antifreeze proteins, salt-resistant halophiles contain compatible solutes or high concentrations of inorganic ions, and acidophiles and alkaliphiles are able to pump ions to keep their internal pH close to neutrality. Their interest to veterinary medicine resides in their capacity to be pathogenic, and as sources of enzymes and other molecules for diagnostic and pharmaceutical purposes. In particular, thermostable DNA polymerases are a mainstay of PCR-based diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3113819  PMID: 21851659
Extremophiles; Adaptation; Thermophiles; Extremozymes; Diagnostics; Polymerase chain reaction
2.  Proteins from extremophiles as stable tools for advanced biotechnological applications of high social interest 
Extremophiles are micro-organisms adapted to survive in ecological niches defined as ‘extreme’ for humans and characterized by the presence of adverse environmental conditions, such as high or low temperatures, extreme values of pH, high salt concentrations or high pressure. Biomolecules isolated from extremophiles possess extraordinary properties and, in particular, proteins isolated from extremophiles represent unique biomolecules that function under severe conditions, comparable to those prevailing in various industrial processes.
In this article, we will review some examples of recent applications of thermophilic proteins for the development of a new class of fluorescence non-consuming substrate biosensors for monitoring the levels of two analytes of high social interest, such as glucose and sodium.
PMCID: PMC2359841  PMID: 17251151
biosensor; fluorescence; extremophiles
3.  A Novel Halophilic Lipase, LipBL, Showing High Efficiency in the Production of Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23325.
Among extremophiles, halophiles are defined as microorganisms adapted to live and thrive in diverse extreme saline environments. These extremophilic microorganisms constitute the source of a number of hydrolases with great biotechnological applications. The interest to use extremozymes from halophiles in industrial applications is their resistance to organic solvents and extreme temperatures. Marinobacter lipolyticus SM19 is a moderately halophilic bacterium, isolated previously from a saline habitat in South Spain, showing lipolytic activity.
Methods and Findings
A lipolytic enzyme from the halophilic bacterium Marinobacter lipolyticus SM19 was isolated. This enzyme, designated LipBL, was expressed in Escherichia coli. LipBL is a protein of 404 amino acids with a molecular mass of 45.3 kDa and high identity to class C β-lactamases. LipBL was purified and biochemically characterized. The temperature for its maximal activity was 80°C and the pH optimum determined at 25°C was 7.0, showing optimal activity without sodium chloride, while maintaining 20% activity in a wide range of NaCl concentrations. This enzyme exhibited high activity against short-medium length acyl chain substrates, although it also hydrolyzes olive oil and fish oil. The fish oil hydrolysis using LipBL results in an enrichment of free eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), but not docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), relative to its levels present in fish oil. For improving the stability and to be used in industrial processes LipBL was immobilized in different supports. The immobilized derivatives CNBr-activated Sepharose were highly selective towards the release of EPA versus DHA. The enzyme is also active towards different chiral and prochiral esters. Exposure of LipBL to buffer-solvent mixtures showed that the enzyme had remarkable activity and stability in all organic solvents tested.
In this study we isolated, purified, biochemically characterized and immobilized a lipolytic enzyme from a halophilic bacterium M. lipolyticus, which constitutes an enzyme with excellent properties to be used in the food industry, in the enrichment in omega-3 PUFAs.
PMCID: PMC3154438  PMID: 21853111
4.  Protein Adaptations in Archaeal Extremophiles 
Archaea  2013;2013:373275.
Extremophiles, especially those in Archaea, have a myriad of adaptations that keep their cellular proteins stable and active under the extreme conditions in which they live. Rather than having one basic set of adaptations that works for all environments, Archaea have evolved separate protein features that are customized for each environment. We categorized the Archaea into three general groups to describe what is known about their protein adaptations: thermophilic, psychrophilic, and halophilic. Thermophilic proteins tend to have a prominent hydrophobic core and increased electrostatic interactions to maintain activity at high temperatures. Psychrophilic proteins have a reduced hydrophobic core and a less charged protein surface to maintain flexibility and activity under cold temperatures. Halophilic proteins are characterized by increased negative surface charge due to increased acidic amino acid content and peptide insertions, which compensates for the extreme ionic conditions. While acidophiles, alkaliphiles, and piezophiles are their own class of Archaea, their protein adaptations toward pH and pressure are less discernible. By understanding the protein adaptations used by archaeal extremophiles, we hope to be able to engineer and utilize proteins for industrial, environmental, and biotechnological applications where function in extreme conditions is required for activity.
PMCID: PMC3787623  PMID: 24151449
5.  Intrinsically Disordered Regions May Lower the Hydration Free Energy in Proteins: A Case Study of Nudix Hydrolase in the Bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(7):e1000854.
The proteome of the radiation- and desiccation-resistant bacterium D. radiodurans features a group of proteins that contain significant intrinsically disordered regions that are not present in non-extremophile homologues. Interestingly, this group includes a number of housekeeping and repair proteins such as DNA polymerase III, nudix hydrolase and rotamase. Here, we focus on a member of the nudix hydrolase family from D. radiodurans possessing low-complexity N- and C-terminal tails, which exhibit sequence signatures of intrinsic disorder and have unknown function. The enzyme catalyzes the hydrolysis of oxidatively damaged and mutagenic nucleotides, and it is thought to play an important role in D. radiodurans during the recovery phase after exposure to ionizing radiation or desiccation. We use molecular dynamics simulations to study the dynamics of the protein, and study its hydration free energy using the GB/SA formalism. We show that the presence of disordered tails significantly decreases the hydration free energy of the whole protein. We hypothesize that the tails increase the chances of the protein to be located in the remaining water patches in the desiccated cell, where it is protected from the desiccation effects and can function normally. We extrapolate this to other intrinsically disordered regions in proteins, and propose a novel function for them: intrinsically disordered regions increase the “surface-properties” of the folded domains they are attached to, making them on the whole more hydrophilic and potentially influencing, in this way, their localization and cellular activity.
Author Summary
Intrinsically disordered proteins and protein segments carry out a wide range of important biological functions despite their lack of permanent tertiary structure. Using advanced computational methods we study the biophysical properties of the intrinsically disordered regions in the enzyme nudix hydrolase from the desiccation- and radiation-resistant bacterium D. radiodurans. Interestingly, these regions are absent in homologue proteins in non-extremophile bacteria, suggesting that they might be involved in helping the key rescue-and-repair proteins in D. radiodurans, such as nudix hydrolase, adapt to the extreme absence of water. We show that the disordered regions in nudix hydrolase enlarge the overall surface of the enzyme, and most importantly, increase its overall affinity for water (i.e. its hydrophilicity). We suggest a novel hypothesis that this, indeed, may be the principal function of disordered regions in some cases: they increase the chances of the protein to be located in the remaining water patches in the desiccated cell, where it is protected from the desiccation effects and can function normally.
PMCID: PMC2904767  PMID: 20657662
6.  Diversity of Microbial Communities in Production and Injection Waters of Algerian Oilfields Revealed by 16S rRNA Gene Amplicon 454 Pyrosequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66588.
The microorganisms inhabiting many petroleum reservoirs are multi-extremophiles capable of surviving in environments with high temperature, pressure and salinity. Their activity influences oil quality and they are an important reservoir of enzymes of industrial interest. To study these microbial assemblages and to assess any modifications that may be caused by industrial practices, the bacterial and archaeal communities in waters from four Algerian oilfields were described and compared. Three different types of samples were analyzed: production waters from flooded wells, production waters from non-flooded wells and injection waters used for flooding (water-bearing formations). Microbial communities of production and injection waters appeared to be significantly different. From a quantitative point of view, injection waters harbored roughly ten times more microbial cells than production waters. Bacteria dominated in injection waters, while Archaea dominated in production waters. Statistical analysis based on the relative abundance and bacterial community composition (BCC) revealed significant differences between production and injection waters at both OTUs0.03 and phylum level. However, no significant difference was found between production waters from flooded and non-flooded wells, suggesting that most of the microorganisms introduced by the injection waters were unable to survive in the production waters. Furthermore, a Venn diagram generated to compare the BCC of production and injection waters of one flooded well revealed only 4% of shared bacterial OTUs. Phylogenetic analysis of bacterial sequences indicated that Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria were the main classes in most of the water samples. Archaeal sequences were only obtained from production wells and each well had a unique archaeal community composition, mainly belonging to Methanobacteria, Methanomicrobia, Thermoprotei and Halobacteria classes. Many of the bacterial genera retrieved had already been reported as degraders of complex organic molecules and pollutants. Nevertheless, a large number of unclassified bacterial and archaeal sequences were found in the analyzed samples, indicating that subsurface waters in oilfields could harbor new and still-non-described microbial species.
PMCID: PMC3689743  PMID: 23805243
7.  OLE RNA protects extremophilic bacteria from alcohol toxicity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(14):6898-6907.
OLE (Ornate, Large, Extremophilic) RNAs represent a recently discovered non-coding RNA class found in extremophilic anaerobic bacteria, including certain human pathogens. OLE RNAs exhibit several unusual characteristics that indicate a potentially novel function, including exceptionally high expression and localization to cell membranes via interaction with a protein partner called OLE-associated protein (OAP). In the current study, new genetic and phenotypic characteristics of OLE RNA from Bacillus halodurans C-125 were established. OLE RNA is transcribed at high levels from its own promoter under normal growth conditions and the transcript is exceptionally stable compared to most other RNAs. Expression is increased by ∼7-fold when cells are exposed to near lethal concentrations of short-chain alcohols such as ethanol or methanol. Strains wherein the genes for OLE and/or OAP are deleted are more susceptible to growth inhibition by alcohol and also become more sensitive to cold. Normal growth characteristics can be restored by expressing the genes for OLE and OAP from plasmids or from elsewhere on the chromosome. Our findings confirm a functional link between OLE and OAP and reveal the importance of a large non-coding RNA in the response to alcohol-induced stress.
PMCID: PMC3413148  PMID: 22561371
8.  Limits of life in hostile environments: no barriers to biosphere function? 
Environmental Microbiology  2009;11(12):3292-3308.
Environments that are hostile to life are characterized by reduced microbial activity which results in poor soil- and plant-health, low biomass and biodiversity, and feeble ecosystem development. Whereas the functional biosphere may primarily be constrained by water activity (aw) the mechanism(s) by which this occurs have not been fully elucidated. Remarkably we found that, for diverse species of xerophilic fungi at aw values of ≤ 0.72, water activity per se did not limit cellular function. We provide evidence that chaotropic activity determined their biotic window, and obtained mycelial growth at water activities as low as 0.647 (below that recorded for any microbial species) by addition of compounds that reduced the net chaotropicity. Unexpectedly we found that some fungi grew optimally under chaotropic conditions, providing evidence for a previously uncharacterized class of extremophilic microbes. Further studies to elucidate the way in which solute activities interact to determine the limits of life may lead to enhanced biotechnological processes, and increased productivity of agricultural and natural ecosystems in arid and semiarid regions.
PMCID: PMC2810447  PMID: 19840102
9.  Divergent Evolution of Male Aggressive Behaviour: Another Reproductive Isolation Barrier in Extremophile Poeciliid Fishes? 
Reproductive isolation among locally adapted populations may arise when immigrants from foreign habitats are selected against via natural or (inter-)sexual selection (female mate choice). We asked whether also intrasexual selection through male-male competition could promote reproductive isolation among populations of poeciliid fishes that are locally adapted to extreme environmental conditions [i.e., darkness in caves and/or toxic hydrogen sulphide (H2S)]. We found strongly reduced aggressiveness in extremophile P. oecilia mexicana, and darkness was the best predictor for the evolutionary reduction of aggressiveness, especially when combined with presence of H2S. We demonstrate that reduced aggression directly translates into migrant males being inferior when paired with males from non-sulphidic surface habitats. By contrast, the phylogenetically old sulphur endemic P. sulphuraria from another sulphide spring area showed no overall reduced aggressiveness, possibly indicating evolved mechanisms to better cope with H2S.
PMCID: PMC3270405  PMID: 22315695
10.  Solution Behavior and Activity of a Halophilic Esterase under High Salt Concentration 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e6980.
Halophiles are extremophiles that thrive in environments with very high concentrations of salt. Although the salt reliance and physiology of these extremophiles have been widely investigated, the molecular working mechanisms of their enzymes under salty conditions have been little explored.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A halophilic esterolytic enzyme LipC derived from archeaon Haloarcula marismortui was overexpressed from Escherichia coli BL21. The purified enzyme showed a range of hydrolytic activity towards the substrates of p-nitrophenyl esters with different alkyl chains (n = 2−16), with the highest activity being observed for p-nitrophenyl acetate, consistent with the basic character of an esterase. The optimal esterase activities were found to be at pH 9.5 and [NaCl] = 3.4 M or [KCl] = 3.0 M and at around 45°C. Interestingly, the hydrolysis activity showed a clear reversibility against changes in salt concentration. At the ambient temperature of 22°C, enzyme systems working under the optimal salt concentrations were very stable against time. Increase in temperature increased the activity but reduced its stability. Circular dichroism (CD), dynamic light scattering (DLS) and small angle neutron scattering (SANS) were deployed to determine the physical states of LipC in solution. As the salt concentration increased, DLS revealed substantial increase in aggregate sizes, but CD measurements revealed the maximal retention of the α-helical structure at the salt concentration matching the optimal activity. These observations were supported by SANS analysis that revealed the highest proportion of unimers and dimers around the optimal salt concentration, although the coexistent larger aggregates showed a trend of increasing size with salt concentration, consistent with the DLS data.
The solution α-helical structure and activity relation also matched the highest proportion of enzyme unimers and dimers. Given that all the solutions studied were structurally inhomogeneous, it is important for future work to understand how the LipC's solution aggregation affected its activity.
PMCID: PMC2736375  PMID: 19759821
11.  ExtremeDB: A Unified Web Repository of Extremophilic Archaea and Bacteria 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63083.
Extremophiles are the microorganisms which can survive under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, pH, salinity etc. They have gained much attention for their potential role in biotechnological and industrial applications. The large amount of experimental data in the literature is so diverse, that it becomes difficult and time consuming for the researcher to implement it in various areas of research. Therefore, a systematic arrangement of data and redirection in a similar fashion through web interface can assist researchers in analyzing the data as per their requirement. ExtremeDB is a freely available web based relational database which integrates general characteristics, genome-proteome information, industrial applications and recent scientific investigations of the seven major groups of 865 extremophillic microorganisms. The search options are user friendly and analyses tools such as Compare and Extreme BLAST have been incorporated for comparative analysis of two or more extremophiles and determining the sequence similarity of a given protein/nucleotide in relation to other extremophiles respectively. The effort put forth herein in the form of database, would open up new avenues on the potential utility of extremophiles in applied research. ExtremeDB is freely accessible via
PMCID: PMC3656046  PMID: 23696792
12.  Immobilization and Characterization of a Recombinant Thermostable Lipase (Pf2001) from Pyrococcus furiosus on Supports with Different Degrees of Hydrophobicity 
Enzyme Research  2010;2010:180418.
We studied the immobilization of a recombinant thermostable lipase (Pf2001Δ60) from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus on supports with different degrees of hydrophobicity: butyl Sepabeads and octadecyl Sepabeads. The enzyme was strongly adsorbed in both supports. When it was adsorbed on these supports, the enzyme showed 140 and 237% hyperactivation, respectively. The assessment of storage stability showed that the octadecyl Sepabeads immobilized enzyme showed 100% of residual activity after 30 days of storage. However, the greatest stability at 70°C was obtained in butyl Sepabeads immobilized enzyme, which retained 77% activity after 1 hour incubation. The maximum activity of the immobilized preparations was obtained with the pH between 6 and 7, at 70°C. Thus, this study achieved a new extremophilic biocatalyst with greater stability, for use in several biotechnological processes.
PMCID: PMC2967836  PMID: 21052496
13.  Extremophilic SHMTs: From Structure to Biotechnology 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:851428.
Recent advances in molecular and structural biology have improved the availability of virtually any biocatalyst in large quantity and have also provided an insight into the detailed structure-function relationships of many of them. These results allowed the rational exploitation of biocatalysts for use in organic synthesis. In this context, extremophilic enzymes are extensively studied for their potential interest for many biotechnological and industrial applications, as they offer increased rates of reactions, higher substrate solubility, and/or longer enzyme half-lives at the conditions of industrial processes. Serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT), for its ubiquitous nature, represents a suitable model for analyzing enzyme adaptation to extreme environments. In fact, many SHMT sequences from Eukarya, Eubacteria and Archaea are available in data banks as well as several crystal structures. In addition, SHMT is structurally conserved because of its critical metabolic role; consequently, very few structural changes have occurred during evolution. Our research group analyzed the molecular basis of SHMT adaptation to high and low temperatures, using experimental and comparative in silico approaches. These structural and functional studies of SHMTs purified from extremophilic organisms can help to understand the peculiarities of the enzyme activity at extreme temperatures, indicating possible strategies for rational enzyme engineering.
PMCID: PMC3697235  PMID: 23841096
14.  Biosynthesis of Crystalline Silver and Gold Nanoparticles by Extremophilic Yeasts 
The biosynthesis of Ag and Au nanoparticles (NPs) was investigated using an extremophilic yeast strain isolated from acid mine drainage in Portugal. Three distinct studies were performed, namely, the growth of yeast strain in presence of metal ions, the use of yeast biomass for the metal nanoparticles synthesis, and of the supernatant obtained after 24-hour incubation of yeast biomass in water. The extremophilic strain under study was able to grow up to an Ag ion concentration of 1.5 mM whereas an increase of Au ion concentration over 0.09 mM caused a strong inhibitory effect. A successful route for the metal NPs synthesis was obtained using the yeast biomass. When the washed yeast cells were in contact with Ag or Au solutions, AgNPs smaller than 20 nm were produced, as for the AuNPs diameter ranged from 30 to 100 nm, as determined through transmission electron microscopy and confirmed by energy-dispersive X-ray spectra. The supernatant-based strategy provided evidence that proteins were released to the medium by the yeasts, which could be responsible for the formation and stabilisation of the Ag NPs, although the involvement of the cell wall seems fundamental for AuNPs synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3170698  PMID: 21912532
15.  Modelling and Optimization Studies on a Novel Lipase Production by Staphylococcus arlettae through Submerged Fermentation 
Enzyme Research  2013;2013:353954.
Microbial enzymes from extremophilic regions such as hot spring serve as an important source of various stable and valuable industrial enzymes. The present paper encompasses the modeling and optimization approach for production of halophilic, solvent, tolerant, and alkaline lipase from Staphylococcus arlettae through response surface methodology integrated nature inspired genetic algorithm. Response surface model based on central composite design has been developed by considering the individual and interaction effects of fermentation conditions on lipase production through submerged fermentation. The validated input space of response surface model (with R2 value of 96.6%) has been utilized for optimization through genetic algorithm. An optimum lipase yield of 6.5 U/mL has been obtained using binary coded genetic algorithm predicted conditions of 9.39% inoculum with the oil concentration of 10.285% in 2.99 hrs using pH of 7.32 at 38.8°C. This outcome could contribute to introducing this extremophilic lipase (halophilic, solvent, and tolerant) to industrial biotechnology sector and will be a probable choice for different food, detergent, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. The present work also demonstrated the feasibility of statistical design tools integration with computational tools for optimization of fermentation conditions for maximum lipase production.
PMCID: PMC3880713  PMID: 24455210
16.  Characterization of Growth and Metabolism of the Haloalkaliphile Natronomonas pharaonis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(6):e1000799.
Natronomonas pharaonis is an archaeon adapted to two extreme conditions: high salt concentration and alkaline pH. It has become one of the model organisms for the study of extremophilic life. Here, we present a genome-scale, manually curated metabolic reconstruction for the microorganism. The reconstruction itself represents a knowledge base of the haloalkaliphile's metabolism and, as such, would greatly assist further investigations on archaeal pathways. In addition, we experimentally determined several parameters relevant to growth, including a characterization of the biomass composition and a quantification of carbon and oxygen consumption. Using the metabolic reconstruction and the experimental data, we formulated a constraints-based model which we used to analyze the behavior of the archaeon when grown on a single carbon source. Results of the analysis include the finding that Natronomonas pharaonis, when grown aerobically on acetate, uses a carbon to oxygen consumption ratio that is theoretically near-optimal with respect to growth and energy production. This supports the hypothesis that, under simple conditions, the microorganism optimizes its metabolism with respect to the two objectives. We also found that the archaeon has a very low carbon efficiency of only about 35%. This inefficiency is probably due to a very low P/O ratio as well as to the other difficulties posed by its extreme environment.
Author Summary
Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental, even lethal, to the majority of life on Earth. Natronomonas pharaonis is one that has been able to adapt to both high salt concentration and an alkaline pH. In this study, we investigate the chemical reactions that occur within the microorganism, collectively referred to as its metabolic network, that allow it to convert the nutrients in its environment to biomass and energy. Specifically, we reconstructed the network by collecting evidence for the existence of reactions from the literature, and then supplemented them with computational approaches, for example by searching the genome of Natronomonas pharaonis for genes that could potentially encode analogs of known enzymes from other organisms. Finally, with the network in hand, we developed a computational model which we used to simulate growth. Among other results, we found indications that Natronomonas pharaonis regulates its metabolism such that energy production and growth are maximized. Despite this however, we also found that Natronomonas pharaonis is only able to incorporate a very small fraction of the total carbon that it consumes (approximately 35%), likely in no small part due to the difficulties posed by its environment.
PMCID: PMC2881530  PMID: 20543878
17.  Molecular evolution of hydrogen peroxide degrading enzymes 
Graphical abstract
► Detailed molecular evolution of metalloenzymes that catalyse the dismutation of hydrogen peroxide. ► Three protein families of differing structure, catalytic mechanism, distribution and evolutionary age. ► Catalatic enzymes in pathogenic organisms are promising targets for drug design. ► Occurrence of biotechnological interesting representatives in extremophiles.
For efficient removal of intra- and/or extracellular hydrogen peroxide by dismutation to harmless dioxygen and water (2H2O2 → O2 + 2H2O), nature designed three metalloenzyme families that differ in oligomeric organization, monomer architecture as well as active site geometry and catalytic residues. Here we report on the updated reconstruction of the molecular phylogeny of these three gene families. Ubiquitous typical (monofunctional) heme catalases are found in all domains of life showing a high structural conservation. Their evolution was directed from large subunit towards small subunit proteins and further to fused proteins where the catalase fold was retained but lost its original functionality. Bifunctional catalase–peroxidases were at the origin of one of the two main heme peroxidase superfamilies (i.e. peroxidase–catalase superfamily) and constitute a protein family predominantly present among eubacteria and archaea, but two evolutionary branches are also found in the eukaryotic world. Non-heme manganese catalases are a relatively small protein family with very old roots only present among bacteria and archaea. Phylogenetic analyses of the three protein families reveal features typical (i) for the evolution of whole genomes as well as (ii) for specific evolutionary events including horizontal gene transfer, paralog formation and gene fusion. As catalases have reached a striking diversity among prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogens, understanding their phylogenetic and molecular relationship and function will contribute to drug design for prevention of diseases of humans, animals and plants.
PMCID: PMC3523812  PMID: 22330759
Catalase; Catalase–peroxidase; Manganese catalase; Molecular evolution; Pathogen; Horizontal gene transfer
18.  Insights on the evolution of trehalose biosynthesis 
The compatible solute trehalose is a non-reducing disaccharide, which accumulates upon heat, cold or osmotic stress. It was commonly accepted that trehalose is only present in extremophiles or cryptobiotic organisms. However, in recent years it has been shown that although higher plants do not accumulate trehalose at significant levels they have actively transcribed genes encoding the corresponding biosynthetic enzymes.
In this study we show that trehalose biosynthesis ability is present in eubacteria, archaea, plants, fungi and animals. In bacteria there are five different biosynthetic routes, whereas in fungi, plants and animals there is only one. We present phylogenetic analyses of the trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (TPS) and trehalose-phosphatase (TPP) domains and show that there is a close evolutionary relationship between these domains in proteins from diverse organisms. In bacteria TPS and TPP genes are clustered, whereas in eukaryotes these domains are fused in a single protein.
We have demonstrated that trehalose biosynthesis pathways are widely distributed in nature. Interestingly, several eubacterial species have multiple pathways, while eukaryotes have only the TPS/TPP pathway. Vertebrates lack trehalose biosynthetic capacity but can catabolise it. TPS and TPP domains have evolved mainly in parallel and it is likely that they have experienced several instances of gene duplication and lateral gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC1769515  PMID: 17178000
19.  Lipids of Prokaryotic Origin at the Base of Marine Food Webs 
Marine Drugs  2012;10(12):2698-2714.
In particular niches of the marine environment, such as abyssal trenches, icy waters and hot vents, the base of the food web is composed of bacteria and archaea that have developed strategies to survive and thrive under the most extreme conditions. Some of these organisms are considered “extremophiles” and modulate the fatty acid composition of their phospholipids to maintain the adequate fluidity of the cellular membrane under cold/hot temperatures, elevated pressure, high/low salinity and pH. Bacterial cells are even able to produce polyunsaturated fatty acids, contrarily to what was considered until the 1990s, helping the regulation of the membrane fluidity triggered by temperature and pressure and providing protection from oxidative stress. In marine ecosystems, bacteria may either act as a sink of carbon, contribute to nutrient recycling to photo-autotrophs or bacterial organic matter may be transferred to other trophic links in aquatic food webs. The present work aims to provide a comprehensive review on lipid production in bacteria and archaea and to discuss how their lipids, of both heterotrophic and chemoautotrophic origin, contribute to marine food webs.
PMCID: PMC3528120  PMID: 23342392
phospholipid; fatty acids; polyunsaturated fatty acids; extremophile; bacteria; archaea; trophic web
20.  Enhanced Productivity of a Lutein-Enriched Novel Acidophile Microalga Grown on Urea 
Marine Drugs  2010;9(1):29-42.
Coccomyxa acidophila is an extremophile eukaryotic microalga isolated from the Tinto River mining area in Huelva, Spain. Coccomyxa acidophila accumulates relevant amounts of β-carotene and lutein, well-known carotenoids with many biotechnological applications, especially in food and health-related industries. The acidic culture medium (pH < 2.5) that prevents outdoor cultivation from non-desired microorganism growth is one of the main advantages of acidophile microalgae production. Conversely, acidophile microalgae growth rates are usually very low compared to common microalgae growth rates. In this work, we show that mixotrophic cultivation on urea efficiently enhances growth and productivity of an acidophile microalga up to typical values for common microalgae, therefore approaching acidophile algal production towards suitable conditions for feasible outdoor production. Algal productivity and potential for carotenoid accumulation were analyzed as a function of the nitrogen source supplied. Several nitrogen conditions were assayed: nitrogen starvation, nitrate and/or nitrite, ammonia and urea. Among them, urea clearly led to the best cell growth (~4 × 108 cells/mL at the end of log phase). Ammonium led to the maximum chlorophyll and carotenoid content per volume unit (220 μg·mL·1 and 35 μg·mL·1, respectively). Interestingly, no significant differences in growth rates were found in cultures grown on urea as C and N source, with respect to those cultures grown on nitrate and CO2 as nitrogen and carbon sources (control cultures). Lutein accumulated up to 3.55 mg·g·1 in the mixotrophic cultures grown on urea. In addition, algal growth in a shaded culture revealed the first evidence for an active xanthophylls cycle operative in acidophile microalgae.
PMCID: PMC3039468  PMID: 21339944
urea; Coccomyxa; extremophile microorganisms; lutein; microalgae
21.  Perspectives on biotechnological applications of archaea 
Archaea  2002;1(2):75-86.
Many archaea colonize extreme environments. They include hyperthermophiles, sulfur-metabolizing thermophiles, extreme halophiles and methanogens. Because extremophilic microorganisms have unusual properties, they are a potentially valuable resource in the development of novel biotechnological processes. Despite extensive research, however, there are few existing industrial applications of either archaeal biomass or archaeal enzymes. This review summarizes current knowledge about the biotechnological uses of archaea and archaeal enzymes with special attention to potential applications that are the subject of current experimental evaluation. Topics covered include cultivation methods, recent achievements in genomics, which are of key importance for the development of new biotechnological tools, and the application of wild-type biomasses, engineered microorganisms, enzymes and specific metabolites in particular bioprocesses of industrial interest.
PMCID: PMC2685559  PMID: 15803645
biotechnology; extremozymes; high density cultivation; recombinant DNA technology
22.  Comparison of freezing tolerance, compatible solutes and polyamines in geographically diverse collections of Thellungiella sp. and Arabidopsis thaliana accessions 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:131.
Thellungiella has been proposed as an extremophile alternative to Arabidopsis to investigate environmental stress tolerance. However, Arabidopsis accessions show large natural variation in their freezing tolerance and here the tolerance ranges of collections of accessions in the two species were compared.
Leaf freezing tolerance of 16 Thellungiella accessions was assessed with an electrolyte leakage assay before and after 14 days of cold acclimation at 4°C. Soluble sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose, raffinose) and free polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, spermine) were quantified by HPLC, proline photometrically. The ranges in nonacclimated freezing tolerance completely overlapped between Arabidopsis and Thellungiella. After cold acclimation, some Thellungiella accessions were more freezing tolerant than any Arabidopsis accessions. Acclimated freezing tolerance was correlated with sucrose levels in both species, but raffinose accumulation was lower in Thellungiella and only correlated with freezing tolerance in Arabidopsis. The reverse was true for leaf proline contents. Polyamine levels were generally similar between the species. Only spermine content was higher in nonacclimated Thellungiella plants, but decreased during acclimation and was negatively correlated with freezing tolerance.
Thellungiella is not an extremophile with regard to freezing tolerance, but some accessions significantly expand the range present in Arabidopsis. The metabolite data indicate different metabolic adaptation strategies between the species.
PMCID: PMC3464606  PMID: 22863402
Arabidopsis thaliana; Cold acclimation; Compatible solutes; Freezing tolerance; Natural variation; Polyamines; Thellungiella salsuginea
23.  Structure and biochemical characterization of an adenylate kinase originating from the psychrophilic organism Marinibacillus marinus  
The crystal structure of adenylate kinase from the psychrophile M. marinus has been determined at 2.0 Å resolution and the kinetic parameters of this cold-adapted enzyme have been examined.
Adenylate kinases (AKs; EC are essential members of the NMP kinase family that maintain cellular homeostasis by the interconversion of AMP, ADP and ATP. AKs play a critical role in adenylate homeostasis across all domains of life and have been used extensively as prototypes for the study of protein adaptation and the relationship of protein dynamics and stability to function. To date, kinetic studies of psychrophilic AKs have not been performed. In order to broaden understanding of extremophilic adaptation, the kinetic parameters of adenylate kinase from the psychrophile Marinibacillus marinus were examined and the crystal structure of this cold-adapted enzyme was determined at 2.0 Å resolution. As expected, the overall structure and topology of the psychrophilic M. marinus AK are similar to those of mesophilic and thermophilic AKs. The thermal denaturation midpoint of M. marinus AK (321.1 K) is much closer to that of the mesophile Bacillus subtilis (320.7 K) than the more closely related psychrophile B. globisporus (316.4 K). In addition, the enzymatic properties of M. marinus AK are quite close to those of the mesophilic AK and suggests that M. marinus experiences temperature ranges in which excellent enzyme function over a broad temperature range (293–313 K) has been retained for the success of the organism. Even transient loss of AK function is lethal and as a consequence AK must be robust and be well adapted to the environment of the host organism.
PMCID: PMC2720325  PMID: 19652331
psychrophiles; adenylate kinases; phosphotransferases; adaptation
24.  Genome Sequence of Exiguobacterium antarcticum B7, Isolated from a Biofilm in Ginger Lake, King George Island, Antarctica 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(23):6689-6690.
Exiguobacterium antarcticum is a psychotropic bacterium isolated for the first time from microbial mats of Lake Fryxell in Antarctica. Many organisms of the genus Exiguobacterium are extremophiles and have properties of biotechnological interest, e.g., the capacity to adapt to cold, which make this genus a target for discovering new enzymes, such as lipases and proteases, in addition to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of adaptation and survival at low temperatures. This study presents the genome of E. antarcticum B7, isolated from a biofilm sample of Ginger Lake on King George Island, Antarctic peninsula.
PMCID: PMC3497522  PMID: 23144424
25.  Hyperthermophilic endoglucanase for in planta lignocellulose conversion 
The enzymatic conversion of lignocellulosic plant biomass into fermentable sugars is a crucial step in the sustainable and environmentally friendly production of biofuels. However, a major drawback of enzymes from mesophilic sources is their suboptimal activity under established pretreatment conditions, e.g. high temperatures, extreme pH values and high salt concentrations. Enzymes from extremophiles are better adapted to these conditions and could be produced by heterologous expression in microbes, or even directly in the plant biomass.
Here we show that a cellulase gene (sso1354) isolated from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus can be expressed in plants, and that the recombinant enzyme is biologically active and exhibits the same properties as the wild type form. Since the enzyme is inactive under normal plant growth conditions, this potentially allows its expression in plants without negative effects on growth and development, and subsequent heat-inducible activation. Furthermore we demonstrate that the recombinant enzyme acts in high concentrations of ionic liquids and can therefore degrade α-cellulose or even complex cell wall preparations under those pretreatment conditions.
The hyperthermophilic endoglucanase SSO1354 with its unique features is an excellent tool for advanced biomass conversion. Here we demonstrate its expression in planta and the possibility for post harvest activation. Moreover the enzyme is suitable for combined pretreatment and hydrolysis applications.
PMCID: PMC3497586  PMID: 22928996
Sulfolobus solfataricus; Cellulases; Biomass processing; Ionic liquids; Plants

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