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1.  Characterization of GlnK1 from Methanosarcina mazei Strain Gö1: Complementation of an Escherichia coli glnK Mutant Strain by GlnK1 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(4):1028-1040.
Trimeric PII-like signal proteins are known to be involved in bacterial regulation of ammonium assimilation and nitrogen fixation. We report here the first biochemical characterization of an archaeal GlnK protein from the diazotrophic methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 and show that M. mazei GlnK1 is able to functionally complement an Escherichia coli glnK mutant for growth on arginine. This indicates that the archaeal GlnK protein substitutes for the regulatory function of E. coli GlnK. M. mazei GlnK1 is encoded in the glnK1-amtB1 operon, which is transcriptionally regulated by the availability of combined nitrogen and is only transcribed in the absence of ammonium. The deduced amino acid sequence of the archaeal glnK1 shows 44% identity to the E. coli GlnK and contains the conserved tyrosine residue (Tyr-51) in the T-loop structure. M. mazei glnK1 was cloned and overexpressed in E. coli, and GlnK1 was purified to apparent homogeneity. A molecular mass of 42 kDa was observed under native conditions, indicating that its native form is a trimer. GlnK1-specific antibodies were raised and used to confirm the in vivo trimeric form by Western analysis. In vivo ammonium upshift experiments and analysis of purified GlnK1 indicated significant differences compared to E. coli GlnK. First, GlnK1 from M. mazei is not covalently modified by uridylylation under nitrogen limitation. Second, heterotrimers between M. mazei GlnK1 and Klebsiella pneumoniae GlnK are not formed. Because M. mazei GlnK1 was able to complement growth of an E. coli glnK mutant with arginine as the sole nitrogen source, it is likely that uridylylation is not required for its regulatory function.
PMCID: PMC134814  PMID: 11807063
2.  Methanosarcina mazei LYC, a New Methanogenic Isolate Which Produces a Disaggregating Enzyme 
A methanogenic coccoid organism, Methanosarcina mazei LYC, was isolated from alkaline sediment obtained from an oil exploration drilling site. The isolate resembled M. mazei S-6 by exhibiting different morphophases during its normal growth cycle. It differed from M. mazei S-6 by undergoint a spontaneous shift from large, irregular aggregates of cells to small, individual, irregular, coccoid units. In batch cultures at pH 7.0, M. mazei LYC grew as aggregates during the early growth stage. As the batch culture began exponential growth, the cell aggregates spontaneously dispersed: the culture liquid became turbid, and myriads of tiny (diameter, 1 to 3 μm) coccoid units were observed under phase-contrast microscopy. Disaggregation apparently was accomplished by the production of an enzyme which hydrolyzed the heteropolysaccharide component of the cell wall; the enzyme was active on other Methanosarcina strains as well. Although the enzyme was active when tested at pH 6.0, it apparently was not produced at that pH: when strain LYC was grown at pH 6.0, only cell aggregates were present throughout batch growth. Individual coccoid cells of M. mazei LYC were sensitive to sodium dodecyl sulfate, but the large aggregates of cells were not. Strain LYC rapidly used H2-CO2, in addition to methanol, and mono-, di-, and trimethylamine as methanogenic substrates; acetate was used very slowly. Its optimum growth temperature was 40°C, and its optimum pH was 7.2.
PMCID: PMC373557  PMID: 16346753
3.  Establishing a Markerless Genetic Exchange System for Methanosarcina mazei Strain Gö1 for Constructing Chromosomal Mutants of Small RNA Genes 
Archaea  2011;2011:439608.
A markerless genetic exchange system was successfully established in Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 using the hpt gene coding for hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase. First, a chromosomal deletion mutant of the hpt gene was generated conferring resistance to the purine analog 8-aza-2,6-diaminopurine (8-ADP). The nonreplicating allelic exchange vector (pRS345) carrying the pac-resistance cassette for direct selection of chromosomal integration, and the hpt gene for counterselection was introduced into this strain. By a pop-in and ultimately pop-out event of the plasmid from the chromosome, allelic exchange is enabled. Using this system, we successfully generated a M. mazei deletion mutant of the gene encoding the regulatory non-coding RNA sRNA154. Characterizing M. mazeiΔsRNA154 under nitrogen limiting conditions demonstrated differential expression of at least three cytoplasmic proteins and reduced growth strongly arguing for a prominent role of sRNA154 in regulation of nitrogen fixation by posttranscriptional regulation.
PMCID: PMC3177094  PMID: 21941461
4.  Effects of Nitrogen and Carbon Sources on Transcription of Soluble Methyltransferases in Methanosarcina mazei Strain Gö1† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(17):6147-6154.
The methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 uses versatile carbon sources and is able to fix molecular nitrogen with methanol as carbon and energy sources. Here, we demonstrate that when growing on trimethylamine (TMA), nitrogen fixation does not occur, indicating that ammonium released during TMA degradation is sufficient to serve as a nitrogen source and represses nif gene induction. We further report on the transcriptional regulation of soluble methyltransferases, which catalyze the initial step of methylamine consumption by methanogenesis, in response to different carbon and nitrogen sources. Unexpectedly, we obtained conclusive evidence that transcription of the mtmB2C2 operon, encoding a monomethylamine (MMA) methyltransferase and its corresponding corrinoid protein, is highly increased under nitrogen limitation when methanol serves as a carbon source. In contrast, transcription of the homologous mtmB1C1 operon is not affected by the nitrogen source but appears to be increased when TMA is the sole carbon and energy source. In general, transcription of operons encoding dimethylamine (DMA) and TMA methyltransferases and methylcobalamine:coenzyme M methyltransferases is not regulated in response to the nitrogen source. However, in all cases transcription of one of the homologous operons or genes is increased by TMA or its degradation products DMA and MMA.
PMCID: PMC1196137  PMID: 16109956
5.  Functional organization of a single nif cluster in the mesophilic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 
Archaea  2002;1(2):143-150.
The mesophilic methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 is able to utilize molecular nitrogen (N2) as its sole nitrogen source. We have identified and characterized a single nitrogen fixation (nif) gene cluster in M. mazei Gö1 with an approximate length of 9 kbp. Sequence analysis revealed seven genes with sequence similarities to nifH, nifI1, nifI2, nifD, nifK, nifE and nifN, similar to other diazotrophic methanogens and certain bacteria such as Clostridium acetobutylicum, with the two glnB-like genes (nifI1 and nifI2) located between nifH and nifD. Phylogenetic analysis of deduced amino acid sequences for the nitrogenase structural genes of M. mazei Gö1 showed that they are most closely related to Methanosarcina barkeri nif2 genes, and also closely resemble those for the corresponding nif products of the gram-positive bacterium C. acetobutylicum. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription PCR analysis demonstrated that the M. mazei nif genes constitute an operon transcribed only under nitrogen starvation as a single 8 kb transcript. Sequence analysis revealed a palindromic sequence at the transcriptional start site in front of the M. mazei nifH gene, which may have a function in transcriptional regulation of the nif operon.
PMCID: PMC2685556  PMID: 15803652
GlnB-like proteins; nif genes; nitrogen fixation; nitrogen regulation
6.  Genomic and phenotypic differentiation among Methanosarcina mazei populations from Columbia River sediment 
The ISME Journal  2015;9(10):2191-2205.
Methanogenic archaea are genotypically and phenotypically diverse organisms that are integral to carbon cycling in anaerobic environments. Owing to their genetic tractability and ability to be readily cultivated, Methanosarcina spp. have become a powerful model system for understanding methanogen biology at the cellular systems level. However, relatively little is known of how genotypic and phenotypic variation is partitioned in Methanosarcina populations inhabiting natural environments and the possible ecological and evolutionary implications of such variation. Here, we have identified how genomic and phenotypic diversity is partitioned within and between Methanosarcina mazei populations obtained from two different sediment environments in the Columbia River Estuary (Oregon, USA). Population genomic analysis of 56 M. mazei isolates averaging <1% nucleotide divergence revealed two distinct clades, which we refer to as ‘mazei-T' and ‘mazei-WC'. Genomic analyses showed that these clades differed in gene content and fixation of allelic variants, which point to potential differences in primary metabolism and also interactions with foreign genetic elements. This hypothesis of niche partitioning was supported by laboratory growth experiments that revealed significant differences in trimethylamine utilization. These findings improve our understanding of the ecologically relevant scales of genomic variation in natural systems and demonstrate interactions between genetic and ecological diversity in these easily cultivable and genetically tractable model methanogens.
PMCID: PMC4579472  PMID: 25756680
7.  Co-occurrence of Methanosarcina mazei and Geobacteraceae in an iron (III)-reducing enrichment culture 
Methanosaeta harundinacea and Methanosarcina barkeri, known as classic acetoclastic methanogens, are capable of directly accepting electrons from Geobacter metallireducens for the reduction of carbon dioxide to methane, having been revealed as direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) in the laboratory co-cultures. However, whether their co-occurrences are ubiquitous in the iron (III)-reducing environments and the other species of acetoclastic methanogens such as Methanosarcina mazei are capable of DIET are still unknown. Instead of initiating the co-cultures with pure cultures, two-step cultivation was employed to selectively enrich iron (III)-reducing microorganisms in a coastal gold mining river, Jiehe River, with rich iron content in the sediments. First, iron (III) reducers including Geobacteraceae were successfully enriched by 3-months successive culture on amorphous Fe(III) oxides as electron acceptor and acetate as electron donor. High-throughput Illumina sequencing, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and clone library analysis based on 16S rRNA genes revealed that the enrichment cultures actively contained the bacteria belong to Geobacteraceae and Bacilli, exclusively dominated by the archaea belong to Methanosarcinaceae. Second, the enrichment cultures including methanogens and Geobacteraceae were transferred with ethanol as alternative electron donor. Remarkably, aggregates were successively formed in the enrichments after three transfers. The results revealed by RNA-based analysis demonstrate that the co-occurrence of Methanosarcina mazei and Geobacteraceae in an iron (III)-reducing enrichment culture. Furthermore, the aggregates, as close physical contact, formed in the enrichment culture, indicate that DIET could be a possible option for interspecies electron transfer in the aggregates.
PMCID: PMC4562271  PMID: 26441876
co-occurrence; Methanosarcina mazei; Geobacteraceae; direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET); iron(III)-reducing microorganisms
8.  The cobZ Gene of Methanosarcina mazei Gö1 Encodes the Nonorthologous Replacement of the α-Ribazole-5′-Phosphate Phosphatase (CobC) Enzyme of Salmonella enterica 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(7):2740-2743.
Open reading frame (ORF) Mm2058 of the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 was shown in vivo and in vitro to encode the nonorthologous replacement of the α-ribazole-phosphate phosphatase (CobC; EC enzyme of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium LT2. Bioinformatics analysis of sequences available in databases tentatively identified ORF Mm2058, which was cloned under the control of an inducible promoter and was used to support growth of an S. enterica strain under conditions that demanded CobC-like activity. The Mm2058 protein was expressed with a decahistidine tag at its N terminus and was purified to homogeneity using nickel affinity chromatography. High-performance liquid chromatography followed by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry showed that the Mm2058 protein had phosphatase activity that converted α-ribazole-5′-phosphate to α-ribazole, as reported for the bacterial CobC enzyme. On the basis of the data reported here, we refer to ORF Mm2058 as cobZ. We tested the prediction by Rodionov et al. (D. A. Rodionov, A. G. Vitreschak, A. A. Mironov, and M. S. Gelfand, J. Biol. Chem. 278:41148-41159, 2003) that ORF HSL01294 (also called Vng1577) encoded the nonorthologous replacement of the bacterial CobC enzyme in the extremely halophilic archaeon Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1. A strain of the latter carrying an in-frame deletion of ORF Vng1577 was not a cobalamin auxotroph, suggesting that either there is redundancy of this function in Halobacterium or the gene was misannotated.
PMCID: PMC1428423  PMID: 16547066
9.  Stress Genes and Proteins in the Archaea 
The field covered in this review is new; the first sequence of a gene encoding the molecular chaperone Hsp70 and the first description of a chaperonin in the archaea were reported in 1991. These findings boosted research in other areas beyond the archaea that were directly relevant to bacteria and eukaryotes, for example, stress gene regulation, the structure-function relationship of the chaperonin complex, protein-based molecular phylogeny of organisms and eukaryotic-cell organelles, molecular biology and biochemistry of life in extreme environments, and stress tolerance at the cellular and molecular levels. In the last 8 years, archaeal stress genes and proteins belonging to the families Hsp70, Hsp60 (chaperonins), Hsp40(DnaJ), and small heat-shock proteins (sHsp) have been studied. The hsp70(dnaK), hsp40(dnaJ), and grpE genes (the chaperone machine) have been sequenced in seven, four, and two species, respectively, but their expression has been examined in detail only in the mesophilic methanogen Methanosarcina mazei S-6. The proteins possess markers typical of bacterial homologs but none of the signatures distinctive of eukaryotes. In contrast, gene expression and transcription initiation signals and factors are of the eucaryal type, which suggests a hybrid archaeal-bacterial complexion for the Hsp70 system. Another remarkable feature is that several archaeal species in different phylogenetic branches do not have the gene hsp70(dnaK), an evolutionary puzzle that raises the important question of what replaces the product of this gene, Hsp70(DnaK), in protein biogenesis and refolding and for stress resistance. Although archaea are prokaryotes like bacteria, their Hsp60 (chaperonin) family is of type (group) II, similar to that of the eukaryotic cytosol; however, unlike the latter, which has several different members, the archaeal chaperonin system usually includes only two (in some species one and in others possibly three) related subunits of ∼60 kDa. These form, in various combinations depending on the species, a large structure or chaperonin complex sometimes called the thermosome. This multimolecular assembly is similar to the bacterial chaperonin complex GroEL/S, but it is made of only the large, double-ring oligomers each with eight (or nine) subunits instead of seven as in the bacterial complex. Like Hsp70(DnaK), the archaeal chaperonin subunits are remarkable for their evolution, but for a different reason. Ubiquitous among archaea, the chaperonins show a pattern of recurrent gene duplication—hetero-oligomeric chaperonin complexes appear to have evolved several times independently. The stress response and stress tolerance in the archaea involve chaperones, chaperonins, other heat shock (stress) proteins including sHsp, thermoprotectants, the proteasome, as yet incompletely understood thermoresistant features of many molecules, and formation of multicellular structures. The latter structures include single- and mixed-species (bacterial-archaeal) types. Many questions remain unanswered, and the field offers extraordinary opportunities owing to the diversity, genetic makeup, and phylogenetic position of archaea and the variety of ecosystems they inhabit. Specific aspects that deserve investigation are elucidation of the mechanism of action of the chaperonin complex at different temperatures, identification of the partners and substitutes for the Hsp70 chaperone machine, analysis of protein folding and refolding in hyperthermophiles, and determination of the molecular mechanisms involved in stress gene regulation in archaeal species that thrive under widely different conditions (temperature, pH, osmolarity, and barometric pressure). These studies are now possible with uni- and multicellular archaeal models and are relevant to various areas of basic and applied research, including exploration and conquest of ecosystems inhospitable to humans and many mammals and plants.
PMCID: PMC98981  PMID: 10585970
10.  Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays for the Specific and Sensitive Quantification of Methanosarcina mazei and Methanobacterium bryantii 
Three microtitration plate enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) have been developed: a competitive ELISA and a two-site (or indirect sandwich) ELISA for Methanosarcina mazei S6 and a two-site ELISA for Methanobacterium bryantii FR-2. The assays were sensitive, with limits of cell protein detection of 3 ng ml−1, 5 ng ml−1, and 50 ng ml−1, respectively, and showed good precision. The M. mazei assays used monoclonal antibodies and were entirely species specific, showing no cross-reaction with methanogens of other genera or with other species of the same genus. The Methanobacterium bryantii assay, which used two polyclonal antisera, showed only a slight cross-reaction with one other Methanobacterium species but no cross-reaction with methanogens of other genera. The use of the ELISAs for quantitative analysis of mixed cultures and of sewage sludge samples was investigated. Sludge diluted at 1:103 or more caused no significant interference in any of the three ELISAs. Various cultures of bacteria, methanogens, and nonmethanogens at a protein concentration of 50 μg ml−1 showed no significant interference in the M. mazei competitive assay and the Methanobacterium bryantii two-site assay, although they did cause falsely low results in the M. mazei two-site assay.
PMCID: PMC202587  PMID: 16347594
11.  Transcriptional Profiling of Methyltransferase Genes during Growth of Methanosarcina mazei on Trimethylamine▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(16):5108-5115.
The genomic expression patterns of Methanosarcina mazei growing with trimethylamine were measured in comparison to those of cells grown with methanol. We identified a total of 72 genes with either an increased level (49 genes) or a decreased level (23 genes) of mRNA during growth on trimethylamine with methanol-grown cells as the control. Major differences in transcript levels were observed for the mta, mtb, mtt, and mtm genes, which encode enzymes involved in methane formation from methanol and trimethylamine, respectively. Other differences in mRNA abundance were found for genes encoding enzymes involved in isopentenyl pyrophosphate synthesis and in the formation of aromatic amino acids, as well as a number of proteins with unknown functions. The results were verified by in-depth analysis of methyltransferase genes using specific primers for real-time quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR). The monitored transcript levels of genes encoding corrinoid proteins involved in methyl group transfer from methylated C1 compounds (mtaC, mtbC, mttC, and mtmC) indicated increased amounts of mRNA from the mtaBC1, mtaBC2, and mtaBC3 operons in methanol-grown cells, whereas mRNA of the mtb1-mtt1 operon was found in high concentrations during trimethylamine consumption. The genes of the mtb1-mtt1 operon encode methyltransferases that are responsible for sequential demethylation of trimethylamine. The analysis of product formation of trimethylamine-grown cells at different optical densities revealed that large amounts of dimethylamine and monomethylamine were excreted into the medium. The intermediate compounds were consumed only in the very late exponential growth phase. RT-PCR analysis of key genes involved in methanogenesis led to the conclusion that M. mazei is able to adapt to changing trimethylamine concentrations and the consumption of intermediate compounds. Hence, we assume that the organism possesses a regulatory network for optimal substrate utilization.
PMCID: PMC2725588  PMID: 19525341
12.  Toxicity of long chain fatty acids towards acetate conversion by Methanosaeta concilii and Methanosarcina mazei  
Microbial Biotechnology  2016;9(4):514-518.
Long‐chain fatty acids (LCFA) can inhibit methane production by methanogenic archaea. The effect of oleate and palmitate on pure cultures of Methanosaeta concilii and Methanosarcina mazei was assessed by comparing methane production rates from acetate before and after LCFA addition. For both methanogens, a sharp decrease in methane production (> 50%) was observed at 0.5 mmol L−1 oleate, and no methane was formed at concentrations higher than 2 mmol L−1 oleate. Palmitate was less inhibitory than oleate, and M. concilii was more tolerant to palmitate than M. mazei, with 2 mmol L−1 palmitate causing 11% and 64% methanogenic inhibition respectively. This study indicates that M. concilii and M. mazei tolerate LCFA concentrations similar to those previously described for hydrogenotrophic methanogens. In particular, the robustness of M. concilii might contribute to the observed prevalence of Methanosaeta species in anaerobic bioreactors used to treat LCFA‐rich wastewater.
PMCID: PMC4919993  PMID: 27273786
13.  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
14.  In silico description of cobalt and nickel assimilation systems in the genomes of methanogens 
Systems and Synthetic Biology  2011;5(3-4):105-114.
Methanogens are a diverse group of organisms that can live in a wide range of environments. Herein, cobalt and tungsten assimilation pathways have proposed to be established in the genomes of Methanococcus maripaludies C5 and Methanosarcina mazei Go1, respectively. All of the proteins involved in the proposed pathways were identified from public domain databases and then complied manually to reconstruct the pathways. The function of proteins with unknown function was assigned by a combined prediction approach. Totally, 17 proteins were identified to cobalt transport and assimilation processes whereas 7 proteins reported to tungsten assimilation system. Phylogenetic analysis of this study revealed that heavy metal transporter of methanogens could be evolved from closely related members in the different genera of methanogens. Nevertheless, genes encoding for metal resistance proteins could be originated from thermophilic and sulfur reducing bacteria. Many metalloenzymes in methanogens were very unique to the species of methanogens. It implied that these metal ions were utilized to produce the precursors for energy driven processes of methanogens. This study suggested that in combination of systems models and evolutionary inference can only correlate metabolic fluxes and physiological changes in methanogens. In silico models of this study will provide insights to design experiments for heavy metal assimilation processes of methanogens growing under heavy metal-rich environments and or in a laboratory condition.
PMCID: PMC3234315  PMID: 23205154
Methanogens; Heavy metals assimilation; Metabolic behavior; Phylogeny; Metalloenzymes; Energetic metabolism
15.  Inhibition of Methanogenesis by Methyl Fluoride: Studies of Pure and Defined Mixed Cultures of Anaerobic Bacteria and Archaea 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1997;63(11):4552-4557.
Methyl fluoride (fluoromethane [CH(inf3)F]) has been used as a selective inhibitor of CH(inf4) oxidation by aerobic methanotrophic bacteria in studies of CH(inf4) emission from natural systems. In such studies, CH(inf3)F also diffuses into the anaerobic zones where CH(inf4) is produced. The effects of CH(inf3)F on pure and defined mixed cultures of anaerobic microorganisms were investigated. About 1 kPa of CH(inf3)F, similar to the amounts used in inhibition experiments, inhibited growth of and CH(inf4) production by pure cultures of aceticlastic methanogens (Methanosaeta spp. and Methanosarcina spp.) and by a methanogenic mixed culture of anaerobic microorganisms in which acetate was produced as an intermediate. With greater quantities of CH(inf3)F, hydrogenotrophic methanogens were also inhibited. At a partial pressure of CH(inf3)F of 1 kPa, homoacetogenic, sulfate-reducing, and fermentative bacteria and a methanogenic mixed culture of anaerobic microorganisms based on hydrogen syntrophy were not inhibited. The inhibition by CH(inf3)F of the growth and CH(inf4) production of Methanosarcina mazei growing on acetate was reversible. CH(inf3)F inhibited only acetate utilization by Methanosarcina barkeri, which is able to use acetate and hydrogen simultaneously, when both acetate and hydrogen were present. These findings suggest that the use of CH(inf3)F as a selective inhibitor of aerobic CH(inf4) oxidation in undefined systems must be interpreted with great care. However, by a careful choice of concentrations, CH(inf3)F may be useful for the rapid determination of the role of acetate as a CH(inf4) precursor.
PMCID: PMC1389292  PMID: 16535736
16.  Discovery and Characterization of the First Archaeal Dihydromethanopterin Reductase, an Iron-Sulfur Flavoprotein from Methanosarcina mazei 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(2):203-209.
The microbial production of methane by methanogenic archaea is dependent on the synthesis of the pterin-containing cofactor tetrahydromethanopterin (H4MPT). The enzyme catalyzing the last step of H4MPT biosynthesis (dihydromethanopterin reductase) has not previously been identified in methane-producing microorganisms. Previous complementation studies with the methylotrophic bacterium Methylobacterium extorquens have indicated that an uncharacterized archaeal-flavoprotein-like flavoprotein (AfpA) from Methylobacillus flagellatus or Burkholderia xenovorans can replace the activity of a phylogenetically unrelated bacterial dihydromethanopterin reductase (DmrA). We propose that MM1854, a homolog of AfpA from Methanosarcina mazei, catalyzes the last step of H4MPT biosynthesis in methane-producing microorganisms. To test this hypothesis, a six-histidine (His6)-tagged version of MM1854 was produced. Bioinformatic analysis revealed the presence of one flavin mononucleotide (FMN)-binding site and two iron-sulfur cluster sites, consistent with an oxidoreductase enzyme. Purified His6-MM1854 occurred as a homodimer of 29-kDa subunits, and the UV-visible spectrum of the purified protein showed absorbance peaks at 380 and 460 nm, characteristic of oxidized FMN. NAD(P)H was incapable of directly reducing the flavin cofactor, but dithionite eliminated the FMN peaks, indicating successful electron transfer to MM1854. An electron transfer system of NADPH, spinach NADPH-ferredoxin oxidoreductase, and ferredoxin could also reduce the FMN peaks. A newly developed assay indicated that dithiothreitol-reduced MM1854 could transfer electrons to dihydromethanopterin. This assay was also effective with a heat-stable DmrX analog from Methanocaldococcus jannaschii (MJ0208). These results provide the first biochemical evidence that MM1854 and MJ0208 function as archaeal dihydromethanopterin reductases (DmrX) and that ferredoxin may serve as an electron donor.
PMCID: PMC3911254  PMID: 23995635
17.  Studies of the CobA-Type ATP:Co(I)rrinoid Adenosyltransferase Enzyme of Methanosarcina mazei Strain Gö1 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(10):3543-3550.
Although methanogenic archaea use B12 extensively as a methyl carrier for methanogenesis, little is known about B12 metabolism in these prokaryotes or any other archaea. To improve our understanding of how B12 metabolism differs between bacteria and archaea, the gene encoding the ATP:co(I)rrinoid adenosyltransferase in Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 (open reading frame MM3138, referred to as cobAMm here) was cloned and used to restore coenzyme B12 synthesis in a Salmonella enterica strain lacking the housekeeping CobA enzyme. cobAMm protein was purified and its initial biochemical analysis performed. In vitro, the activity is enhanced 2.5-fold by the addition of Ca2+ ions, but the activity was not enhanced by Mg2+ and, unlike the S. enterica CobA enzyme, it was >50% inhibited by Mn2+. The CobAMm enzyme had a KmATP of 3 μM and a KmHOCbl of 1 μM. Unlike the S. enterica enzyme, CobAMm used cobalamin (Cbl) as a substrate better than cobinamide (Cbi; a Cbl precursor); the β phosphate of ATP was required for binding to the enzyme. A striking difference between CobASe and CobAMm was the use of ADP as a substrate by CobAMm, suggesting an important role for the γ phosphate of ATP in binding. The results from 31P-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy experiments showed that triphosphate (PPPi) is the reaction by-product; no cleavage of PPPi was observed, and the enzyme was only slightly inhibited by pyrophosphate (PPi). The data suggested substantial variations in ATP binding and probably corrinoid binding between CobASe and CobAMm enzymes.
PMCID: PMC1482872  PMID: 16672609
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Cloning of the HSP70 gene from Halobacterium marismortui: relatedness of archaebacterial HSP70 to its eubacterial homologs and a model for the evolution of the HSP70 gene. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(14):4594-4605.
Heat shock induces the synthesis of a set of proteins in Halobacterium marismortui whose molecular sizes correspond to the known major heat shock proteins. By using the polymerase chain reaction and degenerate oligonucleotide primers for conserved regions of the 70-kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) family, we have successfully cloned and sequenced a gene fragment containing the entire coding sequence for HSP70 from H. marismortui. HSP70 from H. marismortui shows between 44 and 47% amino acid identity with various eukaryotic HSP70s and between 51 and 58% identity with its eubacterial and archaebacterial homologs. On the basis of a comparison of all available HSP70 sequences, we have identified a number of unique sequence signatures in this protein family that provide a clear distinction between eukaryotic organisms and prokaryotic organisms (archaebacteria and eubacteria). The archaebacterial (viz., H. marismortui and Methanosarcina mazei) HSP70s have been found to contain all of the signature sequences characteristic of eubacteria (particularly the gram-positive bacteria), which suggests a close evolutionary relationship between these groups. In addition, detailed analyses of HSP70 sequences that we have carried out have revealed a number of additional novel features of the HSP70 protein family. These include (i) the presence of an insertion of about 25 to 27 amino acids in the N-terminal quadrants of all known eukaryotic and prokaryotic HSP70s except those from archaebacteria and the gram-positive group of bacteria, (ii) significant sequence similarity in HSP70 regions comprising its first and second quadrants from organisms lacking the above insertion, (iii) highly significant similarity between a protein, MreB, of Escherichia coli and the N-terminal half of HSP70s, (iv) significant sequence similarity between the N-terminal quadrant of HSP70 (from gram-positive bacteria and archaebacteria) and the m-type thioredoxin of plant chloroplasts. To account for these and other observations, a model for the evolution of HSP70 proteins involving gene duplication is proposed. The model proposes that HSP70 from archaebacteria (H. marismortui and M. mazei) and the gram-positive group of bacteria constitutes the ancestral form of the protein and that all other HSP70s (viz., other eubacteria as well as eukaryotes) containing the insert have evolved from this ancient protein.
PMCID: PMC206254  PMID: 1624448
21.  Identification of the gene for disaggregatase from Methanosarcina mazei  
Archaea  2008;2(3):185-191.
The gene sequences encoding disaggregatase (Dag), the enzyme responsible for dispersion of cell aggregates of Methanosarcina mazei to single cells, were determined for three strains of M. mazei (S-6T, LYC and TMA). The dag genes of the three strains were 3234 bp in length and had almost the same sequences with 97% amino acid sequence identities. Dag was predicted to comprise 1077 amino acid residues and to have a molecular mass of 120 kDa containing three repeats of the DNRLRE domain in the C terminus, which is specific to the genus Methanosarcina and may be responsible for structural organization and cell wall function. Recombinant Dag was overexpressed in Escherichia coli and preparations of the expressed protein exhibited enzymatic activity. The RT-PCR analysis showed that dag was transcribed to mRNA in M. mazei LYC and indicated that the gene was expressed in vivo. This is the first time the gene involved in the morphological change of Methanosarcina spp. from aggregate to single cells has been identified.
PMCID: PMC2685598  PMID: 19054745
methanochondroitin; morphological change
22.  Stable Transfection of the Diplomonad Parasite Spironucleus salmonicida 
Eukaryotic Cell  2012;11(11):1353-1361.
Eukaryotic microbes are highly diverse, and many lineages remain poorly studied. One such lineage, the diplomonads, a group of binucleate heterotrophic flagellates, has been studied mainly due to the impact of Giardia intestinalis, an intestinal, diarrhea-causing parasite in humans and animals. Here we describe the development of a stable transfection system for use in Spironucleus salmonicida, a diplomonad that causes systemic spironucleosis in salmonid fish. We designed vectors in cassette format carrying epitope tags for localization (3×HA [where HA is hemagglutinin], 2× Escherichia coli OmpF linker and mouse langerin fusion sequence [2×OLLAS], 3×MYC) and purification of proteins (2× Strep-Tag II–FLAG tandem-affinity purification tag or streptavidin binding peptide–glutathione S-transferase [SBP-GST]) under the control of native or constitutive promoters. Three selectable gene markers, puromycin acetyltransferase (pac), blasticidin S-deaminase (bsr), and neomycin phosphotransferase (nptII), were successfully applied for the generation of stable transfectants. Site-specific integration on the S. salmonicida chromosome was shown to be possible using the bsr resistance gene. We epitope tagged six proteins and confirmed their expression by Western blotting. Next, we demonstrated the utility of these vectors by recording the subcellular localizations of the six proteins by laser scanning confocal microscopy. Finally, we described the creation of an S. salmonicida double transfectant suitable for colocalization studies. The transfection system described herein and the imminent completion of the S. salmonicida genome will make it possible to use comparative genomics as an investigative tool to explore specific, as well as general, diplomonad traits, benefiting research on both Giardia and Spironucleus.
PMCID: PMC3486028  PMID: 22983987
23.  Life Cycles in the Methanogenic Archaebacterium Methanosarcina mazei† 
Methanosarcina mazei S6 and LYC were used to study the structure and differentiation of the aggregating methanogens. Cultures harvested under various conditions are described at the ultrastructural level. Cells of strain S6 are enclosed by a layer 12 nm thick in contact with the plasma membrane. In sarcinal colonies, cells are held in close association by a fibrous matrix up to 60 nm thick. Colony maturation was examined in strain S6 over a period of 1 year. Changes occurred in the shape and staining of individual cells. Also, various inclusion bodies were observed that either persist throughout colony maturation or are only found at certain growth stages. Two types of cores that are composed of double membranes in M. mazei S6 are described. One has a 90-nm diameter and contains electron-dense granules similar to those found in the cytoplasm. The other core type does not contain granules, is more numerous, and is found in older cultures. Two life cycles are described for M. mazei based on electron microscope examinations. A complex life cycle involving the release of single cells is described with two variations for strains S6 and LYC. When released cells of strain S6 are placed in fresh medium they can repeat the cycle. In addition, a limited cycle is described for both strains of M. mazei. This limited cycle contains the only sarcinal morphotypes observed in M. barkeri. When M. mazei S6 remains in the limited cycle and does not disaggregate in stationary phase, several types of possible resting forms are found.
PMCID: PMC203386  PMID: 16347105
24.  Phenotypic Properties and Microbial Diversity of Methanogenic Granules from a Full-Scale Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Bed Reactor Treating Brewery Wastewater†  
Methanogenic granules from an anaerobic bioreactor that treated wastewater of a beer brewery consisted of different morphological types of granules. In this study, the microbial compositions of the different granules were analyzed by molecular microbiological techniques: cloning, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. We propose here that the different types of granules reflect the different stages in the life cycle of granules. Young granules were small, black, and compact and harbored active cells. Gray granules were the most abundant granules. These granules have a multilayer structure with channels and void areas. The core was composed of dead or starving cells with low activity. The brown granules, which were the largest granules, showed a loose and amorphous structure with big channels that resulted in fractured zones and corresponded to the older granules. Firmicutes (as determined by FISH) and Nitrospira and Deferribacteres (as determined by cloning and sequencing) were the predominant Bacteria. Remarkably, Firmicutes could not be detected in the brown granules. The methanogenic Archaea identified were Methanosaeta concilii (70 to 90% by FISH and cloning), Methanosarcina mazei, and Methanospirillum spp. The phenotypic appearance of the granules reflected the physiological condition of the granules. This may be valuable to easily select appropriate seed sludges to start up other reactors.
PMCID: PMC1489364  PMID: 16820491
25.  Identification and analysis of proton-translocating pyrophosphatases in the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei  
Archaea  2001;1(1):1-7.
Analysis of genome sequence data from the methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei Gö1 revealed the existence of two open reading frames encoding proton-translocating pyrophosphatases (PPases). These open reading frames are linked by a 750-bp intergenic region containing TC-rich stretches and are transcribed in opposite directions. The corresponding polypeptides are referred to as Mvp1 and Mvp2 and consist of 671 and 676 amino acids, respectively. Both enzymes represent extremely hydrophobic, integral membrane proteins with 15 predicted transmembrane segments and an overall amino acid sequence similarity of 50.1%. Multiple sequence alignments revealed that Mvp1 is closely related to eukaryotic PPases, whereas Mvp2 shows highest homologies to bacterial PPases. Northern blot experiments with RNA from methanol-grown cells harvested in the mid-log growth phase indicated that only Mvp2 was produced under these conditions. Analysis of washed membranes showed that Mvp2 had a specific activity of 0.34 U mg (protein)–1. Proton translocation experiments with inverted membrane vesicles prepared from methanol-grown cells showed that hydrolysis of 1 mol of pyrophosphate was coupled to the translocation of about 1 mol of protons across the cytoplasmic membrane. Appropriate conditions for mvp1 expression could not be determined yet. The pyrophosphatases of M. mazei Gö1 represent the first examples of this enzyme class in methanogenic archaea and may be part of their energy-conserving system. Abbreviations: DCCD, N,N′-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide; PPase, inorganic pyrophosphatase; PPi, inorganic pyrophosphate; Δp, proton motive force.
PMCID: PMC2685546  PMID: 15803653
energy conservation; inorganic pyrophosphate; methanogenesis; proton pump; pyrophosphatase

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