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1.  Differences in Hydrogenase Gene Expression between Methanosarcina acetivorans and Methanosarcina barkeri▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(8):2826-2833.
Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A encodes three putative hydrogenases, including one cofactor F420-linked (frh) and two methanophenazine-linked (vht) enzymes. Comparison of the amino acid sequences of these putative hydrogenases to those of Methanosarcina barkeri and Methanosarcina mazei shows that each predicted subunit contains all the known residues essential for hydrogenase function. The DNA sequences upstream of the genes in M. acetivorans were aligned with those in other Methanosarcina species to identify conserved transcription and translation signals. The M. acetivorans vht promoter region is well conserved among the sequenced Methanosarcina species, while the second vht-type homolog (here called vhx) and frh promoters have only limited similarity. To experimentally determine whether these promoters are functional in vivo, we constructed and characterized both M. acetivorans and M. barkeri strains carrying reporter gene fusions to each of the M. acetivorans and M. barkeri hydrogenase promoters. Generally, the M. acetivorans gene fusions are not expressed in either organism, suggesting that cis-acting mutations inactivated the M. acetivorans promoters. The M. barkeri hydrogenase gene fusions, on the other hand, are expressed in both organisms, indicating that M. acetivorans possesses the machinery to express hydrogenases, although it does not express its own hydrogenases. These data are consistent with specific inactivation of the M. acetivorans hydrogenase promoters and highlight the importance of testing hypotheses generated by using genomic data.
PMCID: PMC2668380  PMID: 19201801
2.  MreA Functions in the Global Regulation of Methanogenic Pathways in Methanosarcina acetivorans 
mBio  2012;3(4):e00189-12.
Results are presented supporting a regulatory role for the product of the MA3302 gene locus (designated MreA) previously annotated as a hypothetical protein in the methanogenic species Methanosarcina acetivorans of the domain Archaea. Sequence analysis of MreA revealed identity to the TrmB family of transcription factors, albeit the sequence is lacking the sensor domain analogous to TrmBL2, abundant in nonmethanogenic species of the domain Archaea. Transcription of mreA was highly upregulated during growth on acetate versus methylotrophic substrates, and an mreA deletion (ΔmreA) strain was impaired for growth with acetate in contrast to normal growth with methylotrophic substrates. Transcriptional profiling of acetate-grown cells identified 280 genes with altered expression in the ΔmreA strain versus the wild-type strain. Expression of genes unique to the acetate pathway decreased whereas expression of genes unique to methylotrophic metabolism increased in the ΔmreA strain relative to the wild type, results indicative of a dual role for MreA in either the direct or indirect activation of acetate-specific genes and repression of methylotrophic-specific genes. Gel shift experiments revealed specific binding of MreA to promoter regions of regulated genes. Homologs of MreA were identified in M. acetivorans and other Methanosarcina species for which expression patterns indicate roles in regulating methylotrophic pathways.
Species in the domain Archaea utilize basal transcription machinery resembling that of the domain Eukarya, raising questions addressing the role of numerous putative transcription factors identified in sequenced archaeal genomes. Species in the genus Methanosarcina are ideally suited for investigating principles of archaeal transcription through analysis of the capacity to utilize a diversity of substrates for growth and methanogenesis. Methanosarcina species switch pathways in response to the most energetically favorable substrate, metabolizing methylotrophic substrates in preference to acetate marked by substantial regulation of gene expression. Although conversion of the methyl group of acetate accounts for most of the methane produced in Earth’s biosphere, no proteins involved in the regulation of genes in the acetate pathway have been reported. The results presented here establish that MreA participates in the global regulation of diverse methanogenic pathways in the genus Methanosarcina. Finally, the results contribute to a broader understanding of transcriptional regulation in the domain Archaea.
PMCID: PMC3419521  PMID: 22851658
3.  Lysine-2,3-Aminomutase and β-Lysine Acetyltransferase Genes of Methanogenic Archaea Are Salt Induced and Are Essential for the Biosynthesis of Nɛ-Acetyl-β-Lysine and Growth at High Salinity 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(10):6047-6055.
The compatible solute Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine is unique to methanogenic archaea and is produced under salt stress only. However, the molecular basis for the salt-dependent regulation of Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine formation is unknown. Genes potentially encoding lysine-2,3-aminomutase (ablA) and β-lysine acetyltransferase (ablB), which are assumed to catalyze Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine formation from α-lysine, were identified on the chromosomes of the methanogenic archaea Methanosarcina mazei Gö1, Methanosarcina acetivorans, Methanosarcina barkeri, Methanococcus jannaschii, and Methanococcus maripaludis. The order of the two genes was identical in the five organisms, and the deduced proteins were very similar, indicating a high degree of conservation of structure and function. Northern blot analysis revealed that the two genes are organized in an operon (termed the abl operon) in M. mazei Gö1. Expression of the abl operon was strictly salt dependent. The abl operon was deleted in the genetically tractable M. maripaludis. Δabl mutants of M. maripaludis no longer produced Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine and were incapable of growth at high salt concentrations, indicating that the abl operon is essential for Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine synthesis. These experiments revealed the first genes involved in the biosynthesis of compatible solutes in methanogens.
PMCID: PMC201229  PMID: 14532061
4.  Generation of Dominant Selectable Markers for Resistance to Pseudomonic Acid by Cloning and Mutagenesis of the ileS Gene from the Archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri Fusaro 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(9):2611-2618.
Currently, only one selectable marker is available for genetic studies in the archaeal genus Methanosarcina. Here we report the generation of selectable markers that encode resistance to pseudomonic acid (PAr) in Methanosarcina species by mutagenesis of the isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase gene (ileS) from Methanosarcina barkeri Fusaro. The M. barkeri ileS gene was obtained by screening of a genomic library for hybridization to a PCR fragment. The complete 3,787-bp DNA sequence surrounding and including the ileS gene was determined. As expected, M. barkeri IleS is phylogenetically related to other archaeal IleS proteins. The ileS gene was cloned into a Methanosarcina-Escherichia coli shuttle vector and mutagenized with hydroxylamine. Nine independent PAr clones were isolated after transformation of Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A with the mutagenized plasmids. Seven of these clones carry multiple changes from the wild-type sequence. Most mutations that confer PAr were shown to alter amino acid residues near the KMSKS consensus sequence of class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. One particular mutation (G594E) was present in all but one of the PAr clones. The MIC of pseudomonic acid for M. acetivorans transformed with a plasmid carrying this single mutation is 70 μg/ml of medium (for the wild type, the MIC is 12 μg/ml). The highest MICs (560 μg/ml) were observed with two triple mutants, A440V/A482T/G594E and A440V/G593D/G594E. Plasmid shuttle vectors and insertion cassettes that encode PAr based on the mutant ileS alleles are described. Finally, the implications of the specific mutations we isolated with respect to binding of pseudomonic acid by IleS are discussed.
PMCID: PMC111328  PMID: 10762266
5.  Carbon-dependent control of electron transfer and central carbon pathway genes for methane biosynthesis in the Archaean, Methanosarcina acetivorans strain C2A 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:62.
The archaeon, Methanosarcina acetivorans strain C2A forms methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from a variety of one-carbon substrates and acetate. Whereas the biochemical pathways leading to methane formation are well understood, little is known about the expression of the many of the genes that encode proteins needed for carbon flow, electron transfer and/or energy conservation. Quantitative transcript analysis was performed on twenty gene clusters encompassing over one hundred genes in M. acetivorans that encode enzymes/proteins with known or potential roles in substrate conversion to methane.
The expression of many seemingly "redundant" genes/gene clusters establish substrate dependent control of approximately seventy genes for methane production by the pathways for methanol and acetate utilization. These include genes for soluble-type and membrane-type heterodisulfide reductases (hdr), hydrogenases including genes for a vht-type F420 non-reducing hydrogenase, molybdenum-type (fmd) as well as tungsten-type (fwd) formylmethanofuran dehydrogenases, genes for rnf and mrp-type electron transfer complexes, for acetate uptake, plus multiple genes for aha- and atp-type ATP synthesis complexes. Analysis of promoters for seven gene clusters reveal UTR leaders of 51-137 nucleotides in length, raising the possibility of both transcriptional and translational levels of control.
The above findings establish the differential and coordinated expression of two major gene families in M. acetivorans in response to carbon/energy supply. Furthermore, the quantitative mRNA measurements demonstrate the dynamic range for modulating transcript abundance. Since many of these gene clusters in M. acetivorans are also present in other Methanosarcina species including M. mazei, and in M. barkeri, these findings provide a basis for predicting related control in these environmentally significant methanogens.
PMCID: PMC2838876  PMID: 20178638
6.  Effect of Substrate Concentration on Carbon Isotope Fractionation during Acetoclastic Methanogenesis by Methanosarcina barkeri and M. acetivorans and in Rice Field Soil▿  
Methanosarcina is the only acetate-consuming genus of methanogenic archaea other than Methanosaeta and thus is important in methanogenic environments for the formation of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide. However, little is known about isotopic discrimination during acetoclastic CH4 production. Therefore, we studied two species of the Methanosarcinaceae family, Methanosarcina barkeri and Methanosarcina acetivorans, and a methanogenic rice field soil amended with acetate. The values of the isotope enrichment factor (ɛ) associated with consumption of total acetate (ɛac), consumption of acetate-methyl (ɛac-methyl) and production of CH4 (ɛCH4) were an ɛac of −30.5‰, an ɛac-methyl of −25.6‰, and an ɛCH4 of −27.4‰ for M. barkeri and an ɛac of −35.3‰, an ɛac-methyl of −24.8‰, and an ɛCH4 of −23.8‰ for M. acetivorans. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism of archaeal 16S rRNA genes indicated that acetoclastic methanogenic populations in rice field soil were dominated by Methanosarcina spp. Isotope fractionation determined during acetoclastic methanogenesis in rice field soil resulted in an ɛac of −18.7‰, an ɛac-methyl of −16.9‰, and an ɛCH4 of −20.8‰. However, in rice field soil as well as in the pure cultures, values of ɛac and ɛac-methyl decreased as acetate concentrations decreased, eventually approaching zero. Thus, isotope fractionation of acetate carbon was apparently affected by substrate concentration. The ɛ values determined in pure cultures were consistent with those in rice field soil if the concentration of acetate was taken into account.
PMCID: PMC2681706  PMID: 19251888
7.  Disaggregation of Methanosarcina spp. and Growth as Single Cells at Elevated Osmolarity 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1993;59(11):3832-3839.
The effect of medium osmolarity on the morphology and growth of Methanosarcina barkeri, Methanosarcina thermophila, Methanosarcina mazei, Methanosarcina vacuolata, and Methanosarcina acetivorans was examined. Each strain was adapted for growth in NaCl concentrations ranging from 0.05 to 1.0 M. Methanosarcina spp. isolated from both marine and nonmarine sources exhibited similar growth characteristics at all NaCl concentrations tested, demonstrating that these species are capable of adapting to a similar range of medium osmolarities. Concomitant with the adaptation in 0.4 to 1.0 M NaCl, all strains disaggregated and grew as single cells rather than in the characteristic multicellular aggregates. Aggregated cells had a methanochondroitin outer layer, while disaggregated single cells lacked the outer layer but retained the protein S-layer adjacent to the cell membrane. Synthesis of glucuronic acid, a major component of methanochondroitin, was reduced 20-fold in the single-cell form of M. barkeri when compared with synthesis in aggregated cells. Strains with the methanochondroitin outer cell layer exhibited enhanced stability at low (<0.2 M NaCl) osmolarity and grew at higher temperatures. Disaggregated cells could be converted back to aggregated cells by gradually readapting cultures to lower NaCl (<0.2 M) and Mg2+ (<0.005 M) concentrations. Disaggregated Methanosarcina spp. could also be colonized and replica plated with greater than 95% recovery rates on solidified agar basal medium that contained 0.4 to 0.6 M NaCl and either trimethylamine, methanol, or acetate as the substrate. The ability to disaggregate and grow Methanosarcina spp. as viable, detergent-sensitive, single cells on agar medium makes these species amenable to mutant selection and screening for genetic studies and enables cells to be gently lysed for the isolation of intact genetic material.
PMCID: PMC182538  PMID: 16349092
8.  Horizontal gene transfer and genome evolution in Methanosarcina 
Genomes of Methanosarcina spp. are among the largest archaeal genomes. One suggested reason for that is massive horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from bacteria. Genes of bacterial origin may be involved in the central metabolism and solute transport, in particular sugar synthesis, sulfur metabolism, phosphate metabolism, DNA repair, transport of small molecules etc. Horizontally transferred (HT) genes are considered to play the key role in the ability of Methanosarcina spp. to inhabit diverse environments. At the moment, genomes of three Methanosarcina spp. have been sequenced, and while these genomes vary in length and number of protein-coding genes, they all have been shown to accumulate HT genes. However, previous estimates had been made when fewer archaeal genomes were known. Moreover, several Methanosarcinaceae genomes from other genera have been sequenced recently. Here, we revise the census of genes of bacterial origin in Methanosarcinaceae.
About 5 % of Methanosarcina genes have been shown to be horizontally transferred from various bacterial groups to the last common ancestor either of Methanosarcinaceae, or Methanosarcina, or later in the evolution. Simulation of the composition of the NCBI protein non-redundant database for different years demonstrates that the estimates of the HGT rate have decreased drastically since 2002, the year of publication of the first Methanosarcina genome.
The phylogenetic distribution of HT gene donors is non-uniform. Most HT genes were transferred from Firmicutes and Proteobacteria, while no HGT events from Actinobacteria to the common ancestor of Methanosarcinaceae were found. About 50 % of HT genes are involved in metabolism. Horizontal transfer of transcription factors is not common, while 46 % of horizontally transferred genes have demonstrated differential expression in a variety of conditions. HGT of complete operons is relatively infrequent and half of HT genes do not belong to operons.
While genes of bacterial origin are still more frequent in Methanosarcinaceae than in other Archaea, most HGT events described earlier as Methanosarcina-specific seem to have occurred before the divergence of Methanosarcinaceae. Genes horizontally transferred from bacteria to archaea neither tend to be transferred with their regulators, nor in long operons.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-015-0393-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4455057  PMID: 26044078
Horizontal gene transfer; Archaea; Bacteria; Genome evolution; Methanosarcina
9.  The Methanosarcina barkeri Genome: Comparative Analysis with Methanosarcina acetivorans and Methanosarcina mazei Reveals Extensive Rearrangement within Methanosarcinal Genomes▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(22):7922-7931.
We report here a comparative analysis of the genome sequence of Methanosarcina barkeri with those of Methanosarcina acetivorans and Methanosarcina mazei. The genome of M. barkeri is distinguished by having an organization that is well conserved with respect to the other Methanosarcina spp. in the region proximal to the origin of replication, with interspecies gene similarities as high as 95%. However, it is disordered and marked by increased transposase frequency and decreased gene synteny and gene density in the distal semigenome. Of the 3,680 open reading frames (ORFs) in M. barkeri, 746 had homologs with better than 80% identity to both M. acetivorans and M. mazei, while 128 nonhypothetical ORFs were unique (nonorthologous) among these species, including a complete formate dehydrogenase operon, genes required for N-acetylmuramic acid synthesis, a 14-gene gas vesicle cluster, and a bacterial-like P450-specific ferredoxin reductase cluster not previously observed or characterized for this genus. A cryptic 36-kbp plasmid sequence that contains an orc1 gene flanked by a presumptive origin of replication consisting of 38 tandem repeats of a 143-nucleotide motif was detected in M. barkeri. Three-way comparison of these genomes reveals differing mechanisms for the accrual of changes. Elongation of the relatively large M. acetivorans genome is the result of uniformly distributed multiple gene scale insertions and duplications, while the M. barkeri genome is characterized by localized inversions associated with the loss of gene content. In contrast, the short M. mazei genome most closely approximates the putative ancestral organizational state of these species.
PMCID: PMC1636319  PMID: 16980466
10.  S-layer Surface-Accessible and Concanavalin A Binding Proteins of Methanosarcina acetivorans and Methanosarcina mazei 
Journal of proteome research  2009;8(4):1972-1982.
The outermost cell envelope structure of many archaea and bacteria contains a proteinaceous lattice termed the surface layer or S-layer. It is typically composed of only one or two abundant, often post-translationally modified proteins that self-assemble to form the highly organized arrays. Surprisingly, over a hundred proteins were annotated to be S-layer components in the archaeal species Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A and Methanosarcina mazei Gö1, reflecting limitations of current predictions. An in vivo biotinylation methodology was devised to affinity tag surface-exposed proteins while overcoming unique challenges in working with these fragile organisms. Cells were adapted to growth under N2 fixing conditions, thus minimizing free amines reactive to the NHS-label, and high pH media compatible with the acylation chemistry was used. A 3-phase separation procedure was employed to isolate intact, labeled cells from lysed-cell derived proteins. Streptavidin affinity enrichment followed by stringent wash conditions removed non-specifically bound proteins. This methodology revealed S-layer proteins in M. acetivorans C2A and M. mazei Gö1 to be MA0829 and MM1976, respectively. Each was demonstrated to exist as multiple glycosylated forms using SDS-PAGE coupled with glycoprotein-specific staining, and by interaction with the lectin, Concanavalin A. A number of additional surface-exposed proteins and glycoproteins were identified and included all three subunits of the thermosome: the latter suggests that the chaperonin complex is both surface- and cytoplasmically-localized. This approach provides an alternative strategy to study surface proteins in the archaea.
PMCID: PMC2666069  PMID: 19228054
S-layer; surface proteins; Methanosarcina acetivorans; Methanosarcina mazei; biotinylation; mass spectrometry; glycoproteins; Concanavalin A
11.  Synthesis of Catalytically Active Form III Ribulose 1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase in Archaea 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(10):3049-3059.
Ribulose 1,5 bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) catalyzes the biological reduction and assimilation of carbon dioxide gas to organic carbon; it is the key enzyme responsible for the bulk of organic matter found on earth. Until recently it was believed that there are only two forms of RubisCO, form I and form II. However, the recent completion of several genome-sequencing projects uncovered open reading frames resembling RubisCO in the third domain of life, the archaea. Previous work and homology comparisons suggest that these enzymes represent a third form of RubisCO, form III. While earlier work indicated that two structurally distinct recombinant archaeal RubisCO proteins catalyzed bona fide RubisCO reactions, it was not established that the rbcL genes of anaerobic archaea can be transcribed and translated to an active enzyme in the native organisms. In this report, it is shown not only that Methanococcus jannaschii, Archaeoglobus fulgidus, Methanosarcina acetivorans, and Methanosarcina barkeri possess open reading frames with the residues required for catalysis but also that the RubisCO protein from these archaea accumulates in an active form under normal growth conditions. In addition, the form III RubisCO gene (rbcL) from M. acetivorans was shown to complement RubisCO deletion strains of Rhodobacter capsulatus and Rhodobacter sphaeroides under both photoheterotrophic and photoautotrophic growth conditions. These studies thus indicate for the first time that archaeal form III RubisCO functions in a physiologically significant fashion to fix CO2. Furthermore, recombinant M. jannaschii, M. acetivorans, and A. fulgidus RubisCO possess unique properties with respect to quaternary structure, temperature optima, and activity in the presence of molecular oxygen compared to the previously described Thermococcus kodakaraensis and halophile proteins.
PMCID: PMC154057  PMID: 12730164
12.  Comparative Study of different msDNA (multicopy single-stranded DNA) structures and phylogenetic comparison of reverse transcriptases (RTs): evidence for vertical inheritance 
Bioinformation  2011;7(4):176-179.
The multi-copy single-stranded DNA (msDNA) is yielded by the action of reverse transcriptase of retro-element in a wide range of pathogenic bacteria. Upon this phenomenon, it has been shown that msDNA is only produced by Eubacteria because many Eubacteria species contained reverse transcriptase in their special retro-element. We have screened around 111 Archaea at KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) database available at genome net server and observed three Methanosarcina species (M.acetivorans, M.barkeri and M.mazei), which also contained reverse transcriptase in their genome sequences. This observation of reverse transcriptase in Archaea raises questions regarding the origin of this enzyme. The evolutionary relationship between these two domains of life (Eubacteria and Archaea) hinges upon the phenomenon of retrons. Interestingly, the evolutionary trees based on the reverse transcriptases (RTs) and 16S ribosomal RNAs point out that all the Eubacteria RTs were descended from Archaea RTs during their evolutionary times. In addition, we also have shown some significant structural features among the newly identified msDNA-Yf79 in Yersinia frederiksenii with other of its related msDNAs (msDNA-St85, msDNA-Vc95, msDNA-Vp96, msDNA-Ec78 and msDNA-Ec83) from pathogenic bacteria. Together the degree of sequence conservation among these msDNAs, the evolutionary trees and the distribution of these ret (reverse transcriptase) genes suggest a possible evolutionary scenario. The single common ancestor of the organisms of Eubacteria and Archaea subgroups probably achieved this ret gene during their evolution through the vertical descent rather than the horizontal transformations followed by integration into this organism genome by a mechanism related to phage recognition and/or transposition.
PMCID: PMC3218519  PMID: 22102774
msDNA; reverse transcriptase; phylogenetic tree
13.  Mining proteomic data to expose protein modifications in Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 
Proteomic tools identify constituents of complex mixtures, often delivering long lists of identified proteins. The high-throughput methods excel at matching tandem mass spectrometry data to spectra predicted from sequence databases. Unassigned mass spectra are ignored, but could, in principle, provide valuable information on unanticipated modifications and improve protein annotations while consuming limited quantities of material. Strategies to “mine” information from these discards are presented, along with discussion of features that, when present, provide strong support for modifications. In this study we mined LC-MS/MS datasets of proteolytically-digested concanavalin A pull down fractions from Methanosarcina mazei Gö1 cell lysates. Analyses identified 154 proteins. Many of the observed proteins displayed post-translationally modified forms, including O-formylated and methyl-esterified segments that appear biologically relevant (i.e., not artifacts of sample handling). Interesting cleavages and modifications (e.g., S-cyanylation and trimethylation) were observed near catalytic sites of methanogenesis enzymes. Of 31 Methanosarcina protein N-termini recovered by concanavalin A binding or from a previous study, only M. mazei S-layer protein MM1976 and its M. acetivorans C2A orthologue, MA0829, underwent signal peptide excision. Experimental results contrast with predictions from algorithms SignalP 3.0 and Exprot, which were found to over-predict the presence of signal peptides. Proteins MM0002, MM0716, MM1364, and MM1976 were found to be glycosylated, and employing chromatography tailored specifically for glycopeptides will likely reveal more. This study supplements limited, existing experimental datasets of mature archaeal N-termini, including presence or absence of signal peptides, translation initiation sites, and other processing. Methanosarcina surface and membrane proteins are richly modified.
PMCID: PMC4350412  PMID: 25798134
S-layers; archaeal surface proteins; Methanosarcina mazei; prokaryotic glycosylation; membrane proteins; concanavalin A
14.  Electron Transport in the Pathway of Acetate Conversion to Methane in the Marine Archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(2):702-710.
A liquid chromatography-hybrid linear ion trap-Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry approach was used to determine the differential abundance of proteins in acetate-grown cells compared to that of proteins in methanol-grown cells of the marine isolate Methanosarcina acetivorans metabolically labeled with 14N versus 15N. The 246 differentially abundant proteins in M. acetivorans were compared with the previously reported 240 differentially expressed genes of the freshwater isolate Methanosarcina mazei determined by transcriptional profiling of acetate-grown cells compared to methanol-grown cells. Profound differences were revealed for proteins involved in electron transport and energy conservation. Compared to methanol-grown cells, acetate-grown M. acetivorans synthesized greater amounts of subunits encoded in an eight-gene transcriptional unit homologous to operons encoding the ion-translocating Rnf electron transport complex previously characterized from the Bacteria domain. Combined with sequence and physiological analyses, these results suggest that M. acetivorans replaces the H2-evolving Ech hydrogenase complex of freshwater Methanosarcina species with the Rnf complex, which generates a transmembrane ion gradient for ATP synthesis. Compared to methanol-grown cells, acetate-grown M. acetivorans synthesized a greater abundance of proteins encoded in a seven-gene transcriptional unit annotated for the Mrp complex previously reported to function as a sodium/proton antiporter in the Bacteria domain. The differences reported here between M. acetivorans and M. mazei can be attributed to an adaptation of M. acetivorans to the marine environment.
PMCID: PMC1347274  PMID: 16385060
15.  A Functional Approach To Uncover the Low-Temperature Adaptation Strategies of the Archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(14):4210-4219.
Low-temperature anaerobic digestion (LTAD) technology is underpinned by a diverse microbial community. The methanogenic archaea represent a key functional group in these consortia, undertaking CO2 reduction as well as acetate and methylated C1 metabolism with subsequent biogas (40 to 60% CH4 and 30 to 50% CO2) formation. However, the cold adaptation strategies, which allow methanogens to function efficiently in LTAD, remain unclear. Here, a pure-culture proteomic approach was employed to study the functional characteristics of Methanosarcina barkeri (optimum growth temperature, 37°C), which has been detected in LTAD bioreactors. Two experimental approaches were undertaken. The first approach aimed to characterize a low-temperature shock response (LTSR) of M. barkeri DSMZ 800T grown at 37°C with a temperature drop to 15°C, while the second experimental approach aimed to examine the low-temperature adaptation strategies (LTAS) of the same strain when it was grown at 15°C. The latter experiment employed cell viability and growth measurements (optical density at 600 nm [OD600]), which directly compared M. barkeri cells grown at 15°C with those grown at 37°C. During the LTSR experiment, a total of 127 proteins were detected in 37°C and 15°C samples, with 20 proteins differentially expressed with respect to temperature, while in the LTAS experiment 39% of proteins identified were differentially expressed between phases of growth. Functional categories included methanogenesis, cellular information processing, and chaperones. By applying a polyphasic approach (proteomics and growth studies), insights into the low-temperature adaptation capacity of this mesophilically characterized methanogen were obtained which suggest that the metabolically diverse Methanosarcinaceae could be functionally relevant for LTAD systems.
PMCID: PMC3697506  PMID: 23645201
16.  Differentiation of Methanosaeta concilii and Methanosarcina barkeri in Anaerobic Mesophilic Granular Sludge by Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization and Confocal Scanning Laser Microscopy† 
Oligonucleotide probes, designed from genes coding for 16S rRNA, were developed to differentiate Methanosaeta concilii, Methanosarcina barkeri, and mesophilic methanogens. All M. concilii oligonucleotide probes (designated MS1, MS2, and MS5) hybridized specifically with the target DNA, but MS5 was the most specific M. concilii oligonucleotide probe. Methanosarcina barkeri oligonucleotide probes (designated MB1, MB3, and MB4) hybridized with different Methanosarcina species. The MB4 probe specifically detected Methanosarcina barkeri, and the MB3 probe detected the presence of all mesophilic Methanosarcina species. These new oligonucleotide probes facilitated the identification, localization, and quantification of the specific relative abundance of M. concilii and Methanosarcina barkeri, which play important roles in methanogenesis. The combined use of fluorescent in situ hybridization with confocal scanning laser microscopy demonstrated that anaerobic granule topography depends on granule origin and feeding. Protein-fed granules showed no layered structure with a random distribution of M. concilii. In contrast, a layered structure developed in methanol-enriched granules, where M. barkeri growth was induced in an outer layer. This outer layer was followed by a layer composed of M. concilii, with an inner core of M. concilii and other bacteria.
PMCID: PMC91320  PMID: 10224023
17.  A SelB/EF-Tu/aIF2γ-like protein from Methanosarcina mazei in the GTP-bound form binds cysteinyl-tRNACys 
The putative translation elongation factor Mbar_A0971 from the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri was proposed to be the pyrrolysine-specific paralogue of EF-Tu (“EF-Pyl”). In the present study, the crystal structures of its homologue from Methanosarcina mazei (MM1309) were determined in the GMPPNP-bound, GDP-bound, and apo forms, by the single-wavelength anomalous dispersion phasing method. The three MM1309 structures are quite similar (r.m.s.d. < 0.1 Å). The three domains, corresponding to domains 1, 2, and 3 of EF-Tu/SelB/aIF2γ, are packed against one another to form a closed architecture. The MM1309 structures resemble those of bacterial/archaeal SelB, bacterial EF-Tu in the GTP-bound form, and archaeal initiation factor aIF2γ, in this order. The GMPPNP and GDP molecules are visible in their co-crystal structures. Isothermal titration calorimetry measurements of MM1309·GTP·Mg2+, MM1309·GDP·Mg2+, and MM1309·GMPPNP·Mg2+ provided dissociation constants of 0.43, 26.2, and 222.2 μM, respectively. Therefore, the affinities of MM1309 for GTP and GDP are similar to those of SelB rather than those of EF-Tu. Furthermore, the switch I and II regions of MM1309 are involved in domain–domain interactions, rather than nucleotide binding. The putative binding pocket for the aminoacyl moiety on MM1309 is too small to accommodate the pyrrolysyl moiety, based on a comparison of the present MM1309 structures with that of the EF-Tu·GMPPNP·aminoacyl-tRNA ternary complex. A hydrolysis protection assay revealed that MM1309 binds cysteinyl (Cys)-tRNACys and protects the aminoacyl bond from non-enzymatic hydrolysis. Therefore, we propose that MM1309 functions as either a guardian protein that protects the Cys moiety from oxidation or an alternative translation factor for Cys-tRNACys.
PMCID: PMC4329189  PMID: 25618148
Crystal structure; Translation factor; GTP; tRNA
18.  Genome-Scale Metabolic Reconstruction and Hypothesis Testing in the Methanogenic Archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(4):855-865.
Methanosarcina acetivorans strain C2A is a marine methanogenic archaeon notable for its substrate utilization, genetic tractability, and novel energy conservation mechanisms. To help probe the phenotypic implications of this organism's unique metabolism, we have constructed and manually curated a genome-scale metabolic model of M. acetivorans, iMB745, which accounts for 745 of the 4,540 predicted protein-coding genes (16%) in the M. acetivorans genome. The reconstruction effort has identified key knowledge gaps and differences in peripheral and central metabolism between methanogenic species. Using flux balance analysis, the model quantitatively predicts wild-type phenotypes and is 96% accurate in knockout lethality predictions compared to currently available experimental data. The model was used to probe the mechanisms and energetics of by-product formation and growth on carbon monoxide, as well as the nature of the reaction catalyzed by the soluble heterodisulfide reductase HdrABC in M. acetivorans. The genome-scale model provides quantitative and qualitative hypotheses that can be used to help iteratively guide additional experiments to further the state of knowledge about methanogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3272958  PMID: 22139506
19.  The Genome Characteristics and Predicted Function of Methyl-Group Oxidation Pathway in the Obligate Aceticlastic Methanogens, Methanosaeta spp 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36756.
In this work, we report the complete genome sequence of an obligate aceticlastic methanogen, Methanosaeta harundinacea 6Ac. Genome comparison indicated that the three cultured Methanosaeta spp., M. thermophila, M. concilii and M. harundinacea 6Ac, each carry an entire suite of genes encoding the proteins involved in the methyl-group oxidation pathway, a pathway whose function is not well documented in the obligately aceticlastic methanogens. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the methyl-group oxidation-involving proteins, Fwd, Mtd, Mch, and Mer from Methanosaeta strains cluster with the methylotrophic methanogens, and were not closely related to those from the hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Quantitative PCR detected the expression of all genes for this pathway, albeit ten times lower than the genes for aceticlastic methanogenesis in strain 6Ac. Western blots also revealed the expression of fwd and mch, genes involved in methyl-group oxidation. Moreover, 13C-labeling experiments suggested that the Methanosaeta strains might use the pathway as a methyl oxidation shunt during the aceticlastic metabolism. Because the mch mutants of Methanosarcina barkeri or M. acetivorans failed to grow on acetate, we suggest that Methanosaeta may use methyl-group oxidation pathway to generate reducing equivalents, possibly for biomass synthesis. An fpo operon, which encodes an electron transport complex for the reduction of CoM-CoB heterodisulfide, was found in the three genomes of the Methanosaeta strains. However, an incomplete protein complex lacking the FpoF subunit was predicted, as the gene for this protein was absent. Thus, F420H2 was predicted not to serve as the electron donor. In addition, two gene clusters encoding the two types of heterodisulfide reductase (Hdr), hdrABC, and hdrED, respectively, were found in the three Methanosaeta genomes. Quantitative PCR determined that the expression of hdrED was about ten times higher than hdrABC, suggesting that hdrED plays a major role in aceticlastic methanogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3349665  PMID: 22590603
20.  Functional Analysis of the Three TATA Binding Protein Homologs in Methanosarcina acetivorans▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(6):1511-1517.
The roles of three TATA binding protein (TBP) homologs (TBP1, TBP2, and TBP3) in the archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans were investigated by using genetic and molecular approaches. Although tbp2 and tbp3 deletion mutants were readily obtained, a tbp1 mutant was not obtained, and the growth of a conditional tbp1 expression strain was tetracycline dependent, indicating that TBP1 is essential. Transcripts of tbp1 were 20-fold more abundant than transcripts of tbp2 and 100- to 200-fold more abundant than transcripts of tbp3, suggesting that TBP1 is the primary TBP utilized during growth. Accordingly, tbp1 is strictly conserved in the genomes of Methanosarcina species. Δtbp3 and Δtbp2 strains exhibited an extended lag phase compared with the wild type, although the lag phase for the Δtbp2 strain was less pronounced when this strain was transitioning from growth on methylotrophic substrates to growth on acetate. Acetate-adapted Δtbp3 cells exhibited growth rates, final growth yields, and lag times that were significantly reduced compared with those of the wild type when the organisms were cultured with growth-limiting concentrations of acetate, and the acetate-adapted Δtbp2 strain exhibited a final growth yield that was reduced compared with that of the wild type when the organisms were cultured with growth-limiting acetate concentrations. DNA microarray analyses identified 92 and 77 genes with altered transcription in the Δtbp2 and Δtbp3 strains, respectively, which is consistent with a role for TBP2 and TBP3 in optimizing gene expression. Together, the results suggest that TBP2 and TBP3 are required for efficient growth under conditions similar to the conditions in the native environment of M. acetivorans.
PMCID: PMC2832540  PMID: 20081030
21.  Electron transport in acetate-grown Methanosarcina acetivorans 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:165.
Acetate is the major source of methane in nature. The majority of investigations have focused on acetotrophic methanogens for which energy-conserving electron transport is dependent on the production and consumption of H2 as an intermediate, although the great majority of acetotrophs are unable to metabolize H2. The presence of cytochrome c and a complex (Ma-Rnf) homologous to the Rnf (Rhodobacter nitrogen fixation) complexes distributed in the domain Bacteria distinguishes non-H2-utilizing Methanosarcina acetivorans from H2-utilizing species suggesting fundamentally different electron transport pathways. Thus, the membrane-bound electron transport chain of acetate-grown M. acetivorans was investigated to advance a more complete understanding of acetotrophic methanogens.
A component of the CO dehydrogenase/acetyl-CoA synthase (CdhAE) was partially purified and shown to reduce a ferredoxin purified using an assay coupling reduction of the ferredoxin to oxidation of CdhAE. Mass spectrometry analysis of the ferredoxin identified the encoding gene among annotations for nine ferredoxins encoded in the genome. Reduction of purified membranes from acetate-grown cells with ferredoxin lead to reduction of membrane-associated multi-heme cytochrome c that was re-oxidized by the addition of either the heterodisulfide of coenzyme M and coenzyme B (CoM-S-S-CoB) or 2-hydoxyphenazine, the soluble analog of methanophenazine (MP). Reduced 2-hydoxyphenazine was re-oxidized by membranes that was dependent on addition of CoM-S-S-CoB. A genomic analysis of Methanosarcina thermophila, a non-H2-utilizing acetotrophic methanogen, identified genes homologous to cytochrome c and the Ma-Rnf complex of M. acetivorans.
The results support roles for ferredoxin, cytochrome c and MP in the energy-conserving electron transport pathway of non-H2-utilizing acetotrophic methanogens. This is the first report of involvement of a cytochrome c in acetotrophic methanogenesis. The results suggest that diverse acetotrophic Methanosarcina species have evolved diverse membrane-bound electron transport pathways leading from ferredoxin and culminating with MP donating electrons to the heterodisulfide reductase (HdrDE) for reduction of CoM-S-S-CoB.
PMCID: PMC3160891  PMID: 21781343
22.  Cloning, DNA sequencing, and characterization of a nifD-homologous gene from the archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri 227 which resembles nifD1 from the eubacterium Clostridium pasteurianum. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1994;176(21):6590-6598.
L. Sibold, M. Henriquet, O. Possot, and J.-P. Aubert (Res. Microbiol. 142:5-12, 1991) cloned and sequenced two nifH-homologous open reading frames (ORFs) from Methanosarcina barkeri 227. Phylogenetic analysis of the deduced amino acid sequences of the nifH ORFs from M. barkeri showed that nifH1 clusters with nifH genes from alternative nitrogenases, while nifH2 clusters with nifH1 from the gram-positive eubacterium Clostridium pasteurianum. The N-terminal sequence of the purified nitrogenase component 2 (the nifH gene product) from M. barkeri was identical with that predicted for nifH2, and dot blot analysis of RNA transcripts indicated that nifH2 (and nifDK2) was expressed in M. barkeri when grown diazotrophically in Mo-containing medium. To obtain nifD2 from M. barkeri, a 4.7-kbp BamHI fragment of M. barkeri DNA was cloned which contained at least five ORFs, including nifH2, ORF105, and ORF125 (previously described by Sibold et al.), as well as nifD2 and part of nifK2. ORFnifD2 is 1,596 bp long and encodes 532 amino acid residues, while the nifK2 fragment is 135 bp long. The deduced amino acid sequences for nifD2 and the nifK2 fragment from M. barkeri cluster most closely with the corresponding nifDK1 gene products from C. pasteurianum. The predicted M. barkeri nifD2 product contains a 50-amino acid insert near the C terminus which has previously been found only in the clostridial nifD1 product. Previous biochemical and sequencing evidence indicates that the C. pasteurianum nitrogenase is the most divergent of known eubacterial Mo-nitrogenases, most likely representing a distinct nif gene family, which now also contains M. barkeri as a member. The similarity between the methanogen and clostridial nif sequences is especially intriguing in light of the recent findings of sequence similarities between gene products from archaea and from low-G+C gram-positive eubacteria for glutamate dehydrogenase, glutamine synthetase I, and heat shock protein 70. It is not clear whether this similarity is due to horizontal gene transfer or to the resemblance of the M. barkeri and C. pasteurianum nitrogenase sequences to an ancestral nitrogenase.
PMCID: PMC197014  PMID: 7961410
23.  Hydroxydiether Lipid Structures in Methanosarcina spp. and Methanococcus voltae† 
Hydroxylated diether lipids are the most abundant lipids in Methanosarcina acetivorans, Methanosarcina thermophila, and Methanosarcina barkeri MS and Fusaro, regardless of the substrate used for growth. Structural analysis of the lipid moiety freed of polar head groups revealed that the hydroxydiether lipids of all the Methanosarcina strains were hydroxylated at position 3 of sn-2 phytanyl chains. The finding that Methanosarcina strains synthesize the same hydroxydiether structure suggests that this is a taxonomic characteristic of the genus. Methanococcus voltae produced minor amounts of the 3-hydroxydiether characteristic of Methanosarcina spp. and also the 3′-hydroxydiether described previously for Methanosaeta concilii.
PMCID: PMC202207  PMID: 16348899
24.  Development of β-Lactamase as a Tool for Monitoring Conditional Gene Expression by a Tetracycline-Riboswitch in Methanosarcina acetivorans 
Archaea  2014;2014:725610.
The use of reporter gene fusions to assess cellular processes such as protein targeting and regulation of transcription or translation is established technology in archaeal, bacterial, and eukaryal genetics. Fluorescent proteins or enzymes resulting in chromogenic substrate turnover, like β-galactosidase, have been particularly useful for microscopic and screening purposes. However, application of such methodology is of limited use for strictly anaerobic organisms due to the requirement of molecular oxygen for chromophore formation or color development. We have developed β-lactamase from Escherichia coli (encoded by bla) in conjunction with the chromogenic substrate nitrocefin into a reporter system usable under anaerobic conditions for the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. By using a signal peptide of a putative flagellin from M. acetivorans and different catabolic promoters, we could demonstrate growth substrate-dependent secretion of β-lactamase, facilitating its use in colony screening on agar plates. Furthermore, a series of fusions comprised of a constitutive promoter and sequences encoding variants of the synthetic tetracycline-responsive riboswitch (tc-RS) was created to characterize its influence on translation initiation in M. acetivorans. One tc-RS variant resulted in more than 11-fold tetracycline-dependent regulation of bla expression, which is in the range of regulation by naturally occurring riboswitches. Thus, tc-RS fusions represent the first solely cis-active, that is, factor-independent system for controlled gene expression in Archaea.
PMCID: PMC3942078  PMID: 24678266
25.  A pyrosequencing-based metagenomic study of methane-producing microbial community in solid-state biogas reactor 
A solid-state anaerobic digestion method is used to produce biogas from various solid wastes in China but the efficiency of methane production requires constant improvement. The diversity and abundance of relevant microorganisms play important roles in methanogenesis of biomass. The next-generation high-throughput pyrosequencing platform (Roche/454 GS FLX Titanium) provides a powerful tool for the discovery of novel microbes within the biogas-generating microbial communities.
To improve the power of our metagenomic analysis, we first evaluated five different protocols for extracting total DNA from biogas-producing mesophilic solid-state fermentation materials and then chose two high-quality protocols for a full-scale analysis. The characterization of both sequencing reads and assembled contigs revealed that the most prevalent microbes of the fermentation materials are derived from Clostridiales (Firmicutes), which contribute to degrading both protein and cellulose. Other important bacterial species for decomposing fat and carbohydrate are Bacilli, Gammaproteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes (belonging to Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes, respectively). The dominant bacterial species are from six genera: Clostridium, Aminobacterium, Psychrobacter, Anaerococcus, Syntrophomonas, and Bacteroides. Among them, abundant Psychrobacter species, which produce low temperature-adaptive lipases, and Anaerococcus species, which have weak fermentation capabilities, were identified for the first time in biogas fermentation. Archaea, represented by genera Methanosarcina, Methanosaeta and Methanoculleus of Euryarchaeota, constitute only a small fraction of the entire microbial community. The most abundant archaeal species include Methanosarcina barkeri fusaro, Methanoculleus marisnigri JR1, and Methanosaeta theromphila, and all are involved in both acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis.
The identification of new bacterial genera and species involved in biogas production provides insights into novel designs of solid-state fermentation under mesophilic or low-temperature conditions.
PMCID: PMC3618299  PMID: 23320936
Solid-state fermentation; Biogas production; Pyrosequencing; Metagenomics; DNA extraction; Anaerococcus; Psychrobacter

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