Mature saturated brine (crystallizers) communities are largely dominated (>80% of cells) by the square halophilic archaeon "Haloquadratum walsbyi". The recent cultivation of the strain HBSQ001 and thesequencing of its genome allows comparison with the metagenome of this taxonomically simplified environment. Similar studies carried out in other extreme environments have revealed very little diversity in gene content among the cell lineages present.
The metagenome of the microbial community of a crystallizer pond has been analyzed by end sequencing a 2000 clone fosmid library and comparing the sequences obtained with the genome sequence of "Haloquadratum walsbyi". The genome of the sequenced strain was retrieved nearly complete within this environmental DNA library. However, many ORF's that could be ascribed to the "Haloquadratum" metapopulation by common genome characteristics or scaffolding to the strain genome were not present in the specific sequenced isolate. Particularly, three regions of the sequenced genome were associated with multiple rearrangements and the presence of different genes from the metapopulation. Many transposition and phage related genes were found within this pool which, together with the associated atypical GC content in these areas, supports lateral gene transfer mediated by these elements as the most probable genetic cause of this variability. Additionally, these sequences were highly enriched in putative regulatory and signal transduction functions.
These results point to a large pan-genome (total gene repertoire of the genus/species) even in this highly specialized extremophile and at a single geographic location. The extensive gene repertoire is what might be expected of a population that exploits a diverse nutrient pool, resulting from the degradation of biomass produced at lower salinities.
In spite of their common hypersaline environment, halophilic archaea are surprisingly different in their nutritional demands and metabolic pathways. The metabolic diversity of halophilic archaea was investigated at the genomic level through systematic metabolic reconstruction and comparative analysis of four completely sequenced species: Halobacterium salinarum, Haloarcula marismortui, Haloquadratum walsbyi, and the haloalkaliphile Natronomonas pharaonis. The comparative study reveals different sets of enzyme genes amongst halophilic archaea, e.g. in glycerol degradation, pentose metabolism, and folate synthesis. The carefully assessed metabolic data represent a reliable resource for future system biology approaches as it also links to current experimental data on (halo)archaea from the literature.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-008-0138-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Metabolism; Archaea; Haloarchaea; Halobacterium salinarum; Pathway database; Metabolic pathways; Enzymes; Comparative genomics
The lipid composition of the extremely halophilic archaeon
Haloquadratum walsbyi was investigated by thin-layer
chromatography and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. The
analysis of neutral lipids showed the presence of vitamin MK-8,
squalene, carotene, bacterioruberin and several retinal isomers. The
major polar lipids were phosphatidylglycerophosphate methyl ester,
phosphatidylglycerosulfate, phosphatidylglycerol and sulfated
diglycosyl diether lipid. Among cardiolipins, the tetra-phytanyl or
dimeric phospholipids, only traces of bisphosphatidylglycerol were
detected. When the cells were exposed to hypotonic medium, no changes
in the membrane lipid composition occurred. Distinguishing it from
other extreme halophiles of the Halobacteriaceae
family, the osmotic stress did not induce the
neo-synthesis of cardiolipins in H. walsbyi. The
difference may depend on the three-laminar structure of the cell wall,
which differs significantly from that of other Haloarchaea.
Archaea; archaeal phospholipids; ether lipids; Halobacteriaceae
Ultrathin square cell Haloquadratum walsbyi from the Archaea domain are the most abundant microorganisms in the hypersaline water of coastal salterns and continental salt lakes. In this work, we explore the cell surface of these microorganisms using amplitude-modulation atomic-force microscopy in nearly physiological conditions. We demonstrate the presence of a regular corrugation with a periodicity of 16–20 nm attributed to the surface layer (S-layer) protein lattice, striped domains asymmetrically distributed on the cell faces and peculiar bulges correlated with the presence of intracellular granules. Besides, subsequent images of cell evolution during the drying process indicate the presence of an external capsule that might correspond to the giant protein halomucin, predicted by the genome but never before observed by other microscopy studies.
We describe the microbiota of two hypersaline saltern ponds, one of intermediate salinity (19%) and a NaCl saturated crystallizer pond (37%) using pyrosequencing. The analyses of these metagenomes (nearly 784 Mb) reaffirmed the vast dominance of Haloquadratum walsbyi but also revealed novel, abundant and previously unsuspected microbial groups. We describe for the first time, a group of low GC Actinobacteria, related to freshwater Actinobacteria, abundant in low and intermediate salinities. Metagenomic assembly revealed three new abundant microbes: a low-GC euryarchaeon with the lowest GC content described for any euryarchaeon, a high-GC euryarchaeon and a gammaproteobacterium related to Alkalilimnicola and Nitrococcus. Multiple displacement amplification and sequencing of the genome from a single archaeal cell of the new low GC euryarchaeon suggest a photoheterotrophic and polysaccharide-degrading lifestyle and its relatedness to the recently described lineage of Nanohaloarchaea. These discoveries reveal the combined power of an unbiased metagenomic and single cell genomic approach.
Haloquadratum walsbyi is frequently a dominant member of the microbial communities in hypersaline waters. 16S rRNA gene sequences indicate that divergence within this species is very low but relatively few sites have been examined, particularly in the southern hemisphere. The diversity of Haloquadratum was examined in three coastal, but geographically distant saltern crystallizer ponds in Australia, using both culture-independent and culture-dependent methods. Two 97%-OTU, comprising Haloquadratum- and Halorubrum-related sequences, were shared by all three sites, with the former OTU representing about 40% of the sequences recovered at each site. Sequences 99.5% identical to that of Hqr. walsbyi C23T were present at all three sites and, overall, 98% of the Haloquadratum-related sequences displayed ≤2% divergence from that of the type strain. While haloarchaeal diversity at each site was relatively low (9–16 OTUs), seven phylogroups (clones and/or isolates) and 4 different clones showed ≤90% sequence identity to classified taxa, and appear to represent novel genera. Six of these branched together in phylogenetic tree reconstructions, forming a clade (MSP8-clade) whose members were only distantly related to classified taxa. Such sequences have only rarely been previously detected but were found at all three Australian crystallizers.
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Archaea; Halobacteria; Halobacteriaceae; Hypersaline; Cultivation; Biodiversity
Haloquadratum walsbyi commonly dominates the microbial flora of hypersaline waters. Its cells are extremely fragile squares requiring >14%(w/v) salt for growth, properties that should limit its dispersal and promote geographical isolation and divergence. To assess this, the genome sequences of two isolates recovered from sites at near maximum distance on Earth, were compared.
Both chromosomes are 3.1 MB in size, and 84% of each sequence was highly similar to the other (98.6% identity), comprising the core sequence. ORFs of this shared sequence were completely synteneic (conserved in genomic orientation and order), without inversion or rearrangement. Strain-specific insertions/deletions could be precisely mapped, often allowing the genetic events to be inferred. Many inferred deletions were associated with short direct repeats (4–20 bp). Deletion-coupled insertions are frequent, producing different sequences at identical positions. In cases where the inserted and deleted sequences are homologous, this leads to variant genes in a common synteneic background (as already described by others). Cas/CRISPR systems are present in C23T but have been lost in HBSQ001 except for a few spacer remnants. Numerous types of mobile genetic elements occur in both strains, most of which appear to be active, and with some specifically targetting others. Strain C23T carries two ∼6 kb plasmids that show similarity to halovirus His1 and to sequences nearby halovirus/plasmid gene clusters commonly found in haloarchaea.
Deletion-coupled insertions show that Hqr. walsbyi evolves by uptake and precise integration of foreign DNA, probably originating from close relatives. Change is also driven by mobile genetic elements but these do not by themselves explain the atypically low gene coding density found in this species. The remarkable genome conservation despite the presence of active systems for genome rearrangement implies both an efficient global dispersal system, and a high selective fitness for this species.
Light is an important environmental signal for all organisms on earth because it is essential for physiological signalling and the regulation of most biological systems. Halophiles found in salt-saturated ponds encode various archaeal rhodopsins and thereby harvest various wavelengths of light either for ion transportation or as sensory mediators. HR (halorhodopsin), one of the microbial rhodopsins, senses yellow light and transports chloride or other halides into the cytoplasm to maintain the osmotic balance during cell growth, and it exists almost ubiquitously in all known halobacteria. To date, only two HRs, isolated from HsHR (Halobacterium salinarum HR) and NpHR (Natronomonas pharaonis HR), have been characterized. In the present study, two new HRs, HmHR (Haloarcula marismortui HR) and HwHR (Haloquadratum walsbyi HR), were functionally overexpressed in Escherichia coli, and the maximum absorbance (λmax) of the purified proteins, the light-driven chloride uptake and the chloride-binding affinity were measured. The results showed them to have similar properties to two HRs reported previously. However, the λmax of HwHR is extremely consistent in a wide range of salt/chloride concentrations, which had not been observed previously. A structural-based sequence alignment identified a single serine residue at 262 in HwHR, which is typically a conserved alanine in all other known HRs. A Ser262 to alanine replacement in HwHR eliminated the chloride-independent colour tuning, whereas an Ala246 to serine mutagenesis in HsHR transformed it to have chloride-independent colour tuning similar to that of HwHR. Thus Ser262 is a key residue for the mechanism of chloride-dependent colour tuning in HwHR.
chloride affinity; halorhodopsin; light-driven chloride pump; photocycle; spectral tuning; site-directed evolution; BR, bacteriorhodopsin; CCCP, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone; DDM, n-dodecyl-β-D-maltoside; HR, halorhodopsin; HsHR, Halobacterium salinarum HR; HmHR, Haloarcula marismortui HR; HwHR, Haloquadratum walsbyi HR; LB, Luria–Bertani; Ni-NTA, Ni2+-nitrilotriacetate; NpHR, Natronomonas pharaonis HR; SR, sensory rhodopsin
The Archaea are highly diverse in terms of their physiology, metabolism and ecology. Presently, very few molecular characteristics are known that are uniquely shared by either all archaea or the different main groups within archaea. The evolutionary relationships among different groups within the Euryarchaeota branch are also not clearly understood.
We have carried out comprehensive analyses on each open reading frame (ORFs) in the genomes of 11 archaea (3 Crenarchaeota – Aeropyrum pernix, Pyrobaculum aerophilum and Sulfolobus acidocaldarius; 8 Euryarchaeota – Pyrococcus abyssi, Methanococcus maripaludis, Methanopyrus kandleri, Methanococcoides burtonii, Halobacterium sp. NCR-1, Haloquadratum walsbyi, Thermoplasma acidophilum and Picrophilus torridus) to search for proteins that are unique to either all Archaea or for its main subgroups. These studies have identified 1448 proteins or ORFs that are distinctive characteristics of Archaea and its various subgroups and whose homologues are not found in other organisms. Six of these proteins are unique to all Archaea, 10 others are only missing in Nanoarchaeum equitans and a large number of other proteins are specific for various main groups within the Archaea (e.g. Crenarchaeota, Euryarchaeota, Sulfolobales and Desulfurococcales, Halobacteriales, Thermococci, Thermoplasmata, all methanogenic archaea or particular groups of methanogens). Of particular importance is the observation that 31 proteins are uniquely present in virtually all methanogens (including M. kandleri) and 10 additional proteins are only found in different methanogens as well as A. fulgidus. In contrast, no protein was exclusively shared by various methanogen and any of the Halobacteriales or Thermoplasmatales. These results strongly indicate that all methanogenic archaea form a monophyletic group exclusive of other archaea and that this lineage likely evolved from Archaeoglobus. In addition, 15 proteins that are uniquely shared by M. kandleri and Methanobacteriales suggest a close evolutionary relationship between them. In contrast to the phylogenomics studies, a monophyletic grouping of archaea is not supported by phylogenetic analyses based on protein sequences.
The identified archaea-specific proteins provide novel molecular markers or signature proteins that are distinctive characteristics of Archaea and all of its major subgroups. The species distributions of these proteins provide novel insights into the evolutionary relationships among different groups within Archaea, particularly regarding the origin of methanogenesis. Most of these proteins are of unknown function and further studies should lead to discovery of novel biochemical and physiological characteristics that are unique to either all archaea or its different subgroups.
HaloLex is a software system for the central management, integration, curation, and web-based visualization of genomic and other -omics data for any given microorganism. The system has been employed for the manual curation of three haloarchaeal genomes, namely Halobacterium salinarum (strain R1), Natronomonas pharaonis, and Haloquadratum walsbyi. HaloLex, in particular, enables the integrated analysis of genome-wide proteomic results with the underlying genomic data. This has proven indispensable to generate reliable gene predictions for GC-rich genomes, which, due to their characteristically low abundance of stop codons, are known to be hard targets for standard gene finders, especially concerning start codon assignment. The proteomic identification of more than 600 N-terminal peptides has greatly increased the reliability of the start codon assignment for Halobacterium salinarum. Application of homology-based methods to the published genome of Haloarcula marismortui allowed to detect 47 previously unidentified genes (a problem that is particularly serious for short protein sequences) and to correct more than 300 start codon misassignments.
Halophilic archaea; Genome information system; Genome browser; Proteomics; Biological data curation; Start codon assignment; Dinucleotide bias
Sequenced archaeal genomes contain a variety of bacterial and eukaryotic DNA repair gene homologs, but relatively little is known about how these microorganisms actually perform DNA repair. At least some archaea, including the extreme halophile Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, are able to repair ultraviolet light (UV) induced DNA damage in the absence of light-dependent photoreactivation but this 'dark' repair capacity remains largely uncharacterized. Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 possesses homologs of the bacterial uvrA, uvrB, and uvrC nucleotide excision repair genes as well as several eukaryotic repair genes and it has been thought that multiple DNA repair pathways may account for the high UV resistance and dark repair capacity of this model halophilic archaeon. We have carried out a functional analysis, measuring repair capability in uvrA, uvrB and uvrC deletion mutants.
Deletion mutants lacking functional uvrA, uvrB or uvrC genes, including a uvrA uvrC double mutant, are hypersensitive to UV and are unable to remove cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers or 6–4 photoproducts from their DNA after irradiation with 150 J/m2 of 254 nm UV-C. The UV sensitivity of the uvr mutants is greatly attenuated following incubation under visible light, emphasizing that photoreactivation is highly efficient in this organism. Phylogenetic analysis of the Halobacterium uvr genes indicates a complex ancestry.
Our results demonstrate that homologs of the bacterial nucleotide excision repair genes uvrA, uvrB, and uvrC are required for the removal of UV damage in the absence of photoreactivating light in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1. Deletion of these genes renders cells hypersensitive to UV and abolishes their ability to remove cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and 6–4 photoproducts in the absence of photoreactivating light. In spite of this inability to repair UV damaged DNA, uvrA, uvrB and uvrC deletion mutants are substantially less UV sensitive than excision repair mutants of E. coli or yeast. This may be due to efficient damage tolerance mechanisms such as recombinational lesion bypass, bypass DNA polymerase(s) and the existence of multiple genomes in Halobacterium. Phylogenetic analysis provides no clear evidence for lateral transfer of these genes from bacteria to archaea.
Phototrophy of the extremely halophilic archaeon Halobacterium salinarum was explored for decades. The research was mainly focused on the expression of bacteriorhodopsin and its functional properties. In contrast, less is known about genome wide transcriptional changes and their impact on the physiological adaptation to phototrophy. The tool of choice to record transcriptional profiles is the DNA microarray technique. However, the technique is still rarely used for transcriptome analysis in archaea.
We developed a whole-genome DNA microarray based on our sequence data of the Hbt. salinarum strain R1 genome. The potential of our tool is exemplified by the comparison of cells growing under aerobic and phototrophic conditions, respectively. We processed the raw fluorescence data by several stringent filtering steps and a subsequent MAANOVA analysis. The study revealed a lot of transcriptional differences between the two cell states. We found that the transcriptional changes were relatively weak, though significant. Finally, the DNA microarray data were independently verified by a real-time PCR analysis.
This is the first DNA microarray analysis of Hbt. salinarum cells that were actually grown under phototrophic conditions. By comparing the transcriptomics data with current knowledge we could show that our DNA microarray tool is well applicable for transcriptome analysis in the extremely halophilic archaeon Hbt. salinarum. The reliability of our tool is based on both the high-quality array of DNA probes and the stringent data handling including MAANOVA analysis. Among the regulated genes more than 50% had unknown functions. This underlines the fact that haloarchaeal phototrophy is still far away from being completely understood. Hence, the data recorded in this study will be subject to future systems biology analysis.
We studied four extremely halophilic archaea by low-pass shotgun sequencing: (1) the metabolically versatile Haloarcula marismortui; (2) the non-pigmented Natrialba asiatica; (3) the psychrophile Halorubrum lacusprofundi and (4) the Dead Sea isolate Halobaculum gomorrense. Approximately one thousand single pass genomic sequences per genome were obtained. The data were analyzed by comparative genomic analyses using the completed Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 genome as a reference. Low-pass shotgun sequencing is a simple, inexpensive, and rapid approach that can readily be performed on any cultured microbe.
As expected, the four archaeal halophiles analyzed exhibit both bacterial and eukaryotic characteristics as well as uniquely archaeal traits. All five halophiles exhibit greater than sixty percent GC content and low isoelectric points (pI) for their predicted proteins. Multiple insertion sequence (IS) elements, often involved in genome rearrangements, were identified in H. lacusprofundi and H. marismortui. The core biological functions that govern cellular and genetic mechanisms of H. sp. NRC-1 appear to be conserved in these four other halophiles. Multiple TATA box binding protein (TBP) and transcription factor IIB (TFB) homologs were identified from most of the four shotgunned halophiles. The reconstructed molecular tree of all five halophiles shows a large divergence between these species, but with the closest relationship being between H. sp. NRC-1 and H. lacusprofundi.
Despite the diverse habitats of these species, all five halophiles share (1) high GC content and (2) low protein isoelectric points, which are characteristics associated with environmental exposure to UV radiation and hypersalinity, respectively. Identification of multiple IS elements in the genome of H. lacusprofundi and H. marismortui suggest that genome structure and dynamic genome reorganization might be similar to that previously observed in the IS-element rich genome of H. sp. NRC-1. Identification of multiple TBP and TFB homologs in these four halophiles are consistent with the hypothesis that different types of complex transcriptional regulation may occur through multiple TBP-TFB combinations in response to rapidly changing environmental conditions. Low-pass shotgun sequence analyses of genomes permit extensive and diverse analyses, and should be generally useful for comparative microbial genomics.
Naturally occurring RNAs contain numerous enzymatically altered nucleosides. Differences in RNA populations (RNomics) and pattern of RNA modifications (Modomics) depends on the organism analyzed and are two of the criteria that distinguish the three kingdoms of life. If the genomic sequences of the RNA molecules can be derived from whole genome sequence information, the modification profile cannot and requires or direct sequencing of the RNAs or predictive methods base on the presence or absence of the modifications genes.
By employing a comparative genomics approach, we predicted almost all of the genes coding for the t+rRNA modification enzymes in the mesophilic moderate halophile Haloferax volcanii. These encode both guide RNAs and enzymes. Some are orthologous to previously identified genes in Archaea, Bacteria or in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but several are original predictions.
The number of modifications in t+rRNAs in the halophilic archaeon is surprisingly low when compared with other Archaea or Bacteria, particularly the hyperthermophilic organisms. This may result from the specific lifestyle of halophiles that require high intracellular salt concentration for survival. This salt content could allow RNA to maintain its functional structural integrity with fewer modifications. We predict that the few modifications present must be particularly important for decoding, accuracy of translation or are modifications that cannot be functionally replaced by the electrostatic interactions provided by the surrounding salt-ions. This analysis also guides future experimental validation work aiming to complete the understanding of the function of RNA modifications in Archaeal translation.
The disaccharide trehalose is considered as a universal stress molecule, protecting cells and biomolecules from injuries imposed by high osmolarity, heat, oxidation, desiccation and freezing. Chromohalobacter salexigens is a halophilic and extremely halotolerant γ-proteobacterium of the family Halomonadaceae. In this work, we have investigated the role of trehalose as a protectant against salinity, temperature and desiccation in C. salexigens. A mutant deficient in the trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene (otsA::Ω) was not affected in its salt or heat tolerance, but double mutants ectoine- and trehalose-deficient, or hydroxyectoine-reduced and trehalose-deficient, displayed an osmo- and thermosensitive phenotype, respectively. This suggests a role of trehalose as a secondary solute involved in osmo- (at least at low salinity) and thermoprotection of C. salexigens. Interestingly, trehalose synthesis was osmoregulated at the transcriptional level, and thermoregulated at the post-transcriptional level, suggesting that C. salexigens cells need to be pre-conditioned by osmotic stress, in order to be able to quickly synthesize trehalose in response to heat stress. C. salexigens was more sensitive to desiccation than E. coli and desiccation tolerance was slightly improved when cells were grown at high temperature. Under these conditions, single mutants affected in the synthesis of trehalose or hydroxyectoine were more sensitive to desiccation than the wild-type strain. However, given the low survival rates of the wild type, the involvement of trehalose and hydroxyectoine in C. salexigens response to desiccation could not be firmly established.
Halogeometricum borinquense Montalvo-Rodríguez et al. 1998 is the type species of the genus, and is of phylogenetic interest because of its distinct location between the halobacterial genera Haloquadratum and Halosarcina. H. borinquense requires extremely high salt (NaCl) concentrations for growth. It can not only grow aerobically but also anaerobically using nitrate as electron acceptor. The strain described in this report is a free-living, motile, pleomorphic, euryarchaeon, which was originally isolated from the solar salterns of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the complete genome sequence, and annotation. This is the first complete genome sequence of the halobacterial genus Halogeometricum, and this 3,944,467 bp long six replicon genome with its 3937 protein-coding and 57 RNA genes is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.
halophile; free-living; non-pathogenic; aerobic; pleomorphic cells; euryarchaeon
While Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea are all capable of protein N glycosylation, the archaeal version of this posttranslational modification is the least understood. To redress this imbalance, recent studies of the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii have identified a gene cluster encoding the Agl proteins involved in the assembly and attachment of a pentasaccharide to select Asn residues of the surface layer glycoprotein in this species. However, because the automated tools used for rapid annotation of genome sequences, including that of H. volcanii, are not always accurate, a reannotation of the agl cluster was undertaken in order to discover genes not previously recognized. In the present report, reanalysis of the gene cluster that includes aglB, aglE, aglF, aglG, aglI, and aglJ, which are known components of the H. volcanii protein N-glycosylation machinery, was undertaken. Using computer-based tools or visual inspection, together with transcriptional analysis and protein expression approaches, genes encoding AglP, AglQ, and AglR are now described.
A novel archaeal virus, His1, was isolated from hypersaline waters in southeastern Australia. It was lytic, grew only on Haloarcula hispanica (titers of up to 1011 PFU/ml), and displayed a lemon-shaped morphology (74 by 44 nm) previously reported only for a virus of the extreme thermophiles (SSV1). The density of His1 was approximately 1.28 g/ml, similar to that of SSV1 (1.24 g/ml). Purified particles were resistant to low salt concentrations. The genome was linear, double-stranded DNA of 14.9 kb, similar to the genome of SSV1 (15.5 kb). Morphologically, this isolate clearly belongs to the recently proposed Fuselloviridae family of archaeal viruses. It is the first member of this family from the extremely halophilic archaea, and its host, H. hispanica, can be readily manipulated genetically.
Hortaea werneckii and Aureobasidium pullulans, black yeast-like fungi isolated from hypersaline waters of salterns as their natural ecological niche, have been previously defined as halophilic and halotolerant microorganisms, respectively. In the present study we assessed their growth and determined the intracellular cation concentrations of salt-adapted and non-salt-adapted cells of both species at a wide range of salinities (0 to 25% NaCl and 0 to 20% NaCl, respectively). Although 5% NaCl improved the growth of H. werneckii, even the minimal addition of NaCl to the growth medium slowed down the growth rate of A. pullulans, confirming their halophilic and halotolerant nature. Salt-adapted cells of H. werneckii and A. pullulans kept very low amounts of internal Na+ even when grown at high NaCl concentrations and can be thus considered Na+ excluders, suggesting the existence of efficient mechanisms for the regulation of ion fluxes. Based on our results, we can conclude that these organisms do not use K+ or Na+ for osmoregulation. Comparison of cation fluctuations after a hyperosmotic shock, to which nonadapted cells of both species were exposed, demonstrated better ionic homeostasis regulation of H. werneckii compared to A. pullulans. We observed small fluctuations of cation concentrations after a hyperosmotic shock in nonadapted A. pullulans similar to those in salt-adapted H.werneckii, which additionally confirmed better regulation of ionic homeostasis in the latter. These features can be expected from organisms adapted to survival within a wide range of salinities and to occasional exposure to extremely high NaCl concentrations, both characteristic for their natural environment.
Extremophilic archaea, both hyperthermophiles and halophiles, dominate in habitats where rather harsh conditions are encountered. Like all other organisms, archaeal cells are susceptible to viral infections, and to date, about 100 archaeal viruses have been described. Among them, there are extraordinary virion morphologies as well as the common head-tailed viruses. Although approximately half of the isolated archaeal viruses belong to the latter group, no three-dimensional virion structures of these head-tailed viruses are available. Thus, rigorous comparisons with bacteriophages are not yet warranted. In the present study, we determined the genome sequences of two of such viruses of halophiles and solved their capsid structures by cryo-electron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction. We show that these viruses are inactivated, yet remain intact, at low salinity and that their infectivity is regained when high salinity is restored. This enabled us to determine their three-dimensional capsid structures at low salinity to a ∼10-Å resolution. The genetic and structural data showed that both viruses belong to the same T-number class, but one of them has enlarged its capsid to accommodate a larger genome than typically associated with a T=7 capsid by inserting an additional protein into the capsid lattice.
Halophilic archaea were found to contain in their cytoplasm millimolar concentrations of γ-glutamylcysteine (γGC) instead of glutathione. Previous analysis of the genome sequence of the archaeon Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1 has indicated the presence of a sequence homologous to sequences known to encode the glutamate-cysteine ligase GshA. We report here the identification of the gshA gene in the extremely halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii and show that H. volcanii gshA directs in vivo the synthesis and accumulation of γGC. We also show that the H. volcanii gene when expressed in an Escherichia coli strain lacking functional GshA is able to restore synthesis of glutathione.
Kushner, D. J. (National Research Council, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). Lysis and dissolution of cells and envelopes of an extremely halophilic bacterium. J. Bacteriol. 87:1147–1156. 1964.—Envelopes of the extremely halophilic bacterium, Halobacterium cutirubrum, disintegrate in the absence of salt to form much smaller particles. Extensive proteolytic breakdown to compounds of low molecular weight is not involved in this process or in the lysis of cells in the absence of salt. NaCl is much more effective than KCl or NH4Cl in preserving the integrity of intact cells, but is only slightly more effective in preserving the integrity of mechanically prepared envelopes, of cells made permeable by treatment with acid, and of cells made permeable by formalin fixation followed by exposure to water. MgCl2 is much more effective in preserving the integrity of these preparations than of intact cells. The results suggest that the exterior cell surface has sites specifically requiring Na+ to maintain their integrity, whereas the interior surface has sites whose integrity is maintained at least as well by K+ or NH4+ as by Na+.
Since the first genome of a halophilic archaeon was sequenced in 2000, biologists have been advancing the understanding of genomic characteristics that allow for survival in the harsh natural environments of these organisms. An increase in protein acidity and GC-bias in the genome have been implicated as factors in tolerance to extreme salinity, desiccation, and high solar radiation. However, few previous attempts have been made to identify novel genes that would permit survival in such extreme conditions.
With the recent release of several new complete haloarchaeal genome sequences, we have conducted a comprehensive comparative genomic analysis focusing on the identification of unique haloarchaeal conserved proteins that likely play key roles in environmental adaptation. Using bioinformatic methods, we have clustered 31,312 predicted proteins from nine haloarchaeal genomes into 4,455 haloarchaeal orthologous groups (HOGs). We assigned likely functions by association with established COG and KOG databases in NCBI. After identifying homologs in four additional haloarchaeal genomes, we determined that there were 784 core haloarchaeal protein clusters (cHOGs), of which 83 clusters were found primarily in haloarchaea. Further analysis found that 55 clusters were truly unique (tucHOGs) to haloarchaea and qualify as signature proteins while 28 were nearly unique (nucHOGs), the vast majority of which were coded for on the haloarchaeal chromosomes. Of the signature proteins, only one example with any predicted function, Ral, involved in desiccation/radiation tolerance in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, was identified. Among the core clusters, 33% was predicted to function in metabolism, 25% in information transfer and storage, 10% in cell processes and signaling, and 22% belong to poorly characterized or general function groups.
Our studies have established conserved groups of nearly 800 protein clusters present in all haloarchaea, with a subset of 55 which are predicted to be accessory proteins that may be critical or essential for success in an extreme environment. These studies support core and signature genes and proteins as valuable concepts for understanding phylogenetic and phenotypic characteristics of coherent groups of organisms.
Haloarcula hispanica is an extremely halophilic archaeon that has an unusually low restriction barrier and is therefore significant for studying archaeal genetics, metabolism, and virus-host interactions. Here we report the complete genome sequence (3,890,005 bp) of H. hispanica strain CGMCC 1.2049, consisting of two chromosomes and one megaplasmid.
The genome of the halophilic archaeon Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 encodes for homologs of MutS and MutL, which are key proteins of a DNA mismatch repair pathway conserved in Bacteria and Eukarya. Mismatch repair is essential for retaining the fidelity of genetic information and defects in this pathway result in the deleterious accumulation of mutations and in hereditary diseases in humans.
We calculated the spontaneous genomic mutation rate of H. salinarum NRC-1 using fluctuation tests targeting genes of the uracil monophosphate biosynthesis pathway. We found that H. salinarum NRC-1 has a low incidence of mutation suggesting the presence of active mechanisms to control spontaneous mutations during replication. The spectrum of mutational changes found in H. salinarum NRC-1, and in other archaea, appears to be unique to this domain of life and might be a consequence of their adaption to extreme environmental conditions. In-frame targeted gene deletions of H. salinarum NRC-1 mismatch repair genes and phenotypic characterization of the mutants demonstrated that the mutS and mutL genes are not required for maintenance of the observed mutation rate.
We established that H. salinarum NRC-1 mutS and mutL genes are redundant to an alternative system that limits spontaneous mutation in this organism. This finding leads to the puzzling question of what mechanism is responsible for maintenance of the low genomic mutation rates observed in the Archaea, which for the most part do not have MutS and MutL homologs.