Various effects of microgravity on prokaryotes have been recognized in recent years, with the focus on studies of pathogenic bacteria. No archaea have been investigated yet with respect to their responses to microgravity. For exposure experiments on spacecrafts or on the International Space Station, halophilic archaea (haloarchaea) are usually embedded in halite, where they accumulate in fluid inclusions. In a liquid environment, these cells will experience microgravity in space, which might influence their viability and survival. Two haloarchaeal strains, Haloferax mediterranei and Halococcus dombrowskii, were grown in simulated microgravity (SMG) with the rotary cell culture system (RCCS, Synthecon). Initially, salt precipitation and detachment of the porous aeration membranes in the RCCS were observed, but they were avoided in the remainder of the experiment by using disposable instead of reusable vessels. Several effects were detected, which were ascribed to growth in SMG: Hfx. mediterranei's resistance to the antibiotics bacitracin, erythromycin, and rifampicin increased markedly; differences in pigmentation and whole cell protein composition (proteome) of both strains were noted; cell aggregation of Hcc. dombrowskii was notably reduced. The results suggest profound effects of SMG on haloarchaeal physiology and cellular processes, some of which were easily observable and measurable. This is the first report of archaeal responses to SMG. The molecular mechanisms of the effects induced by SMG on prokaryotes are largely unknown; haloarchaea could be used as nonpathogenic model systems for their elucidation and in addition could provide information about survival during lithopanspermia (interplanetary transport of microbes inside meteorites). Key Words: Haloferax mediterranei—Halococcus dombrowskii—Simulated microgravity—Rotary cell culture system—Antibiotic resistance—Lithopanspermia. Astrobiology 11, 199–205.
Haloarchaea are the dominant microbial flora in hypersaline waters with near-saturating salt levels. The haloarchaeal diversity of an Australian saltern crystallizer pond was examined by use of a library of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes and by cultivation. High viable counts (106 CFU/ml) were obtained on solid media. Long incubation times (≥8 weeks) appeared to be more important than the medium composition for maximizing viable counts and diversity. Of 66 isolates examined, all belonged to the family Halobacteriaceae, including members related to species of the genera Haloferax, Halorubrum, and Natronomonas. In addition, isolates belonging to a novel group (the ADL group), previously detected only as 16S rRNA genes in an Antarctic hypersaline lake (Deep Lake), were cultivated for the first time. The 16S rRNA gene library identified the following five main groups: Halorubrum groups 1 and 2 (49%), the SHOW (square haloarchaea of Walsby) group (33%), the ADL group (16%), and the Natronomonas group (2%). There were two significant differences between the organisms detected in cultivation and 16S rRNA sequence results. Firstly, Haloferax spp. were frequently isolated on plates (15% of all isolates) but were not detected in the 16S rRNA sequences. Control experiments indicated that a bias against Haloferax sequences in the generation of the 16S rRNA gene library was unlikely, suggesting that Haloferax spp. readily form colonies, even though they were not a dominant group. Secondly, while the 16S rRNA gene library identified the SHOW group as a major component of the microbial community, no isolates of this group were obtained. This inability to culture members of the SHOW group remains an outstanding problem in studying the ecology of hypersaline environments.
The nitrogen cycle (N-cycle), principally supported by prokaryotes, involves different redox reactions mainly focused on assimilatory purposes or respiratory processes for energy conservation. As the N-cycle has important environmental implications, this biogeochemical cycle has become a major research topic during the last few years. However, although N-cycle metabolic pathways have been studied extensively in Bacteria or Eukarya, relatively little is known in the Archaea. Halophilic Archaea are the predominant microorganisms in hot and hypersaline environments such as salted lakes, hot springs or salted ponds. Consequently, the denitrifying haloarchaea that sustain the nitrogen cycle under these conditions have emerged as an important target for research aimed at understanding microbial life in these extreme environments.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei was isolated 20 years ago from Santa Pola salted ponds (Alicante, Spain). It was described as a denitrifier and it is also able to grow using NO3-, NO2- or NH4+ as inorganic nitrogen sources. This review summarizes the advances that have been made in understanding the N-cycle in halophilic archaea using Hfx mediterranei as a haloarchaeal model. The results obtained show that this microorganism could be very attractive for bioremediation applications in those areas where high salt, nitrate and nitrite concentrations are found in ground waters and soils.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are accumulated in many prokaryotes. Several members of the Halobacteriaceae produce poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), but it is not known if this is a general property of the family. We evaluated identification methods for PHAs with 20 haloarchaeal species, three of them isolates from Permian salt. Staining with Sudan Black B, Nile Blue A, or Nile Red was applied to screen for the presence of PHAs. Transmission electron microscopy and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used for visualization of PHB granules and chemical confirmation of PHAs in cell extracts, respectively. We report for the first time the production of PHAs by Halococcus sp. (Halococcus morrhuae DSM 1307T, Halococcus saccharolyticus DSM 5350T, Halococcus salifodinae DSM 8989T, Halococcus dombrowskii DSM 14522T, Halococcus hamelinensis JCM 12892T, Halococcus qingdaonensis JCM 13587T), Halorubrum sp. (Hrr. coriense DSM 10284T, Halorubrum chaoviator DSM 19316T, Hrr. chaoviator strains NaxosII and AUS-1), haloalkaliphiles (Natronobacterium gregoryi NCMB 2189T, Natronococcus occultus DSM 3396T) and Halobacterium noricense DSM 9758T. No PHB was detected in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 ATCC 700922, Hbt. salinarum R1 and Haloferax volcanii DSM 3757T. Most species synthesized PHAs when growing in synthetic as well as in complex medium. The polyesters were generally composed of PHB and poly-ß-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV). Available genomic data suggest the absence of PHA synthesis in some haloarchaea and in all other Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. Homologies between haloarchaeal and bacterial PHA synthesizing enzymes had indicated to some authors probable horizontal gene transfer, which, considering the data obtained in this study, may have occurred already before Permian times.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-010-2611-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Polyhydroxybutyrate; Haloarchaea; Halococcus; Halobacterium; Haloalkaliphile
Eighteen strains of extremely halophilic bacteria and three strains of moderately halophilic bacteria were isolated from four different solar salt environments. Growth tests on carbohydrates, low-molecular-weight carboxylic acids, and complex medium demonstrated that the moderate halophiles and strains of the extreme halophiles Haloarcula and Halococcus grew on most of the substrates tested. Among the Halobacterium isolates were several metabolic groups: strains that grew on a broad range of substrates and strains that were essentially confined to either amino acid (peptone) or carbohydrate oxidation. One strain (WS-4) only grew well on pyruvate and acetate. Most strains of extreme halophiles grew by anaerobic fermentation and possibly by nitrate reduction. Tests of growth potential in natural saltern brines demonstrated that none of the halobacteria grew well in brines which harbor the densest populations of these bacteria in solar salterns. All grew best in brines which were unsaturated with NaCl. The high concentrations of Na+ and Mg2+ found in saltern crystallizer brines limited bacterial growth, but the concentrations of K+ found in these brines had little effect. MgSO4 was relatively more inhibitory to the extreme halophiles than was MgCl2, but the reverse was true for the moderate halophiles.
Goa is a coastal state in India and salt making is being practiced for many years. This investigation aimed in determining the culturable haloarchaeal diversity during two different phases of salt production in a natural solar saltern of Ribandar, Goa. Water and sediment samples were collected from the saltern during pre-salt harvesting phase and salt harvesting phase. Salinity and pH of the sampling site was determined. Isolates were obtained by plating of the samples on complex and synthetic haloarchaeal media. Morphology of the isolates was determined using Gram staining and electron microscopy. Response of cells to distilled water was studied spectrophotometrically at 600nm. Molecular identification of the isolates was performed by sequencing the 16S rRNA.
Salinity of salt pans varied from 3-4% (non-salt production phase) to 30% (salt production phase) and pH varied from 7.0-8.0. Seven haloarchaeal strains were isolated from water and sediment samples during non-salt production phase and seventeen haloarchaeal strains were isolated during the salt production phase. All the strains stained uniformly Gram negative. The orange-red acetone extract of the pigments showed similar spectrophotometric profile with absorption maxima at 393, 474, 501 and 535 nm. All isolates obtained from the salt dilute phase were grouped within the genus Halococcus. This was validated using both total lipid profiling and 16S rRNA data sequencing. The isolates obtained from pre-salt harvesting phase were resistant to lysis. 16S rRNA data showed that organisms belonging to Halorubrum, Haloarcula, Haloferax and Halococcus genera were obtained during the salt concentrated phase. The isolates obtained from salt harvesting phase showed varied lysis on suspension in distilled water and /or 3.5% NaCl.
Salterns in Goa are transiently operated during post monsoon season from January to May. During the pre-salt harvesting phase, all the isolates obtained belonged to Halococcus sp. During the salt harvesting phase, isolates belonging to Halorubrum, Haloarcula, Haloferax and Halococcus genera were obtained. This study clearly indicates that Halococcus sp. dominates during the low salinity conditions.
Archaea; Haloarchaea; Hypersaline; Solar saltern
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are accumulated as intracellular carbon and energy storage polymers by various bacteria and a few haloarchaea. In this study, 28 strains belonging to 15 genera in the family Halobacteriaceae were investigated with respect to their ability to synthesize PHAs and the types of their PHA synthases. Fermentation results showed that 18 strains from 12 genera could synthesize polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) or poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV). For most of these haloarchaea, selected regions of the phaE and phaC genes encoding PHA synthases (type III) were cloned via PCR with consensus-degenerate hybrid oligonucleotide primers (CODEHOPs) and were sequenced. The PHA synthases were also examined by Western blotting using haloarchaeal Haloarcula marismortui PhaC (PhaCHm) antisera. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the type III PHA synthases from species of the Halobacteriaceae and the Bacteria domain clustered separately. Comparison of their amino acid sequences revealed that haloarchaeal PHA synthases differed greatly in both molecular weight and certain conserved motifs. The longer C terminus of haloarchaeal PhaC was found to be indispensable for its enzymatic activity, and two additional amino acid residues (C143 and C190) of PhaCHm were proved to be important for its in vivo function. Thus, we conclude that a novel subtype (IIIA) of type III PHA synthase with unique features that distinguish it from the bacterial subtype (IIIB) is widely distributed in haloarchaea and appears to be involved in PHA biosynthesis.
Halophilic archaebacteria (haloarchaea) thrive in environments with salt concentrations approaching saturation, such as natural brines, the Dead Sea, alkaline salt lakes and marine solar salterns; they have also been isolated from rock salt of great geological age (195–250 million years). An overview of their taxonomy, including novel isolates from rock salt, is presented here; in addition, some of their unique characteristics and physiological adaptations to environments of low water activity are reviewed. The issue of extreme long-term microbial survival is considered and its implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. The development of detection methods for subterranean haloarchaea, which might also be applicable to samples from future missions to space, is presented.
Extreme halophiles; Haloarchaea; Life detection; Microbial longevity; Salt mines; Salt sediments; Space missions; Subterranean; Taxonomy of halobacteriaceae
The halophilic Archaeon Halorubrum lacusprofundi, isolated from the perennially cold and hypersaline Deep Lake in Antarctica, was recently sequenced and compared to 12 Haloarchaea from temperate climates by comparative genomics. Amino acid substitutions for 604 H. lacusprofundi proteins belonging to conserved haloarchaeal orthologous groups (cHOGs) were determined and found to occur at 7.85% of positions invariant in proteins from mesophilic Haloarchaea. The following substitutions were observed most frequently: (a) glutamic acid with aspartic acid or alanine; (b) small polar residues with other small polar or non-polar amino acids; (c) small non-polar residues with other small non-polar residues; (d) aromatic residues, especially tryptophan, with other aromatic residues; and (e) some larger polar residues with other similar residues. Amino acid substitutions for a cold-active H. lacusprofundi β-galactosidase were then examined in the context of a homology modeled structure at residues invariant in homologous enzymes from mesophilic Haloarchaea. Similar substitutions were observed as in the genome-wide approach, with the surface accessible regions of β-galactosidase displaying reduced acidity and increased hydrophobicity, and internal regions displaying mainly subtle changes among smaller non-polar and polar residues. These findings are consistent with H. lacusprofundi proteins displaying amino acid substitutions that increase structural flexibility and protein function at low temperature. We discuss the likely mechanisms of protein adaptation to a cold, hypersaline environment on Earth, with possible relevance to life elsewhere.
The extremely halophilic archaea are present worldwide in saline environments and have important biotechnological applications. Ten complete genomes of haloarchaea are now available, providing an opportunity for comparative analysis.
We report here the comparative analysis of five newly sequenced haloarchaeal genomes with five previously published ones. Whole genome trees based on protein sequences provide strong support for deep relationships between the ten organisms. Using a soft clustering approach, we identified 887 protein clusters present in all halophiles. Of these core clusters, 112 are not found in any other archaea and therefore constitute the haloarchaeal signature. Four of the halophiles were isolated from water, and four were isolated from soil or sediment. Although there are few habitat-specific clusters, the soil/sediment halophiles tend to have greater capacity for polysaccharide degradation, siderophore synthesis, and cell wall modification. Halorhabdus utahensis and Haloterrigena turkmenica encode over forty glycosyl hydrolases each, and may be capable of breaking down naturally occurring complex carbohydrates. H. utahensis is specialized for growth on carbohydrates and has few amino acid degradation pathways. It uses the non-oxidative pentose phosphate pathway instead of the oxidative pathway, giving it more flexibility in the metabolism of pentoses.
These new genomes expand our understanding of haloarchaeal catabolic pathways, providing a basis for further experimental analysis, especially with regard to carbohydrate metabolism. Halophilic glycosyl hydrolases for use in biofuel production are more likely to be found in halophiles isolated from soil or sediment.
Environmental bacteria grown on TCBS agar plates (TCBS strains) were investigated for the presence ofVibrio cholerae in aquatic environments. TCBS strain counts were 0.01 – 0.001 times the total viable counts in pairs of the same samples. The TCBS strains were of two types which required NaCl (salt strain) and did not require NaCl (non-salt strain) to grow in peptone water. Non-salt strains made up 85.3 – 92.1% of TCBS strains isolated from river water. TCBS strains isolated from an estuary contained 40.9% of non-salt strains and 57.4% of salt strains. Salt strains made up 69.2 – 86.8% of TCBS strains isolated from seawater. The percentages ofVibrio species in TCBS strains were 11.9 – 47.9%. V.alginolyticus andV. parahaemolyticus were isolated from seawater.V. vulnificus was only isolated from estuary water.V. cholerae non-Ol was isolated from both river water and estuary water which had low salinity.V. fluvialis was isolated from all three aquatic environments. This investigation suggests thatVibrio species were present in each sample station and thatV. cholerae existed in river water.
Vibrio cholerae; ecology; river; sea; TCBS
Two major types of environment provide habitats for the most xerophilic organisms known: foods preserved by some form of dehydration or enhanced sugar levels, and hypersaline sites where water availability is limited by a high concentration of salts (usually NaCl). These environments are essentially microbial habitats, with high-sugar foods being dominated by xerophilic (sometimes called osmophilic) filamentous fungi and yeasts, some of which are capable of growth at a water activity (a(w)) of 0.61, the lowest a(w) value for growth recorded to date. By contrast, high-salt environments are almost exclusively populated by prokaryotes, notably the haloarchaea, capable of growing in saturated NaCl (a(w) 0.75). Different strategies are employed for combating the osmotic stress imposed by high levels of solutes in the environment. Eukaryotes and most prokaryotes synthesize or accumulate organic so-called 'compatible solutes' (osmolytes) that have counterbalancing osmotic potential. A restricted range of bacteria and the haloarchaea counterbalance osmotic stress imposed by NaCl by accumulating equivalent amounts of KCl. Haloarchaea become entrapped and survive for long periods inside halite (NaCl) crystals. They are also found in ancient subterranean halite (NaCl) deposits, leading to speculation about survival over geological time periods.
Halovirus PH1 infects Haloarcula hispanica and was isolated from an Australian salt lake. The burst size in single-step growth conditions was 50–100 PFU/cell, but cell density did not decrease until well after the rise (4–6 hr p.i.), indicating that the virus could exit without cell lysis. Virions were round, 51 nm in diameter, displayed a layered capsid structure, and were sensitive to chloroform and lowered salt concentration. The genome is linear dsDNA, 28,064 bp in length, with 337 bp terminal repeats and terminal proteins, and could transfect haloarchaeal species belonging to five different genera. The genome is predicted to carry 49 ORFs, including those for structural proteins, several of which were identified by mass spectroscopy. The close similarity of PH1 to SH1 (74% nucleotide identity) allowed a detailed description and analysis of the differences (divergent regions) between the two genomes, including the detection of repeat-mediated deletions. The relationship of SH1-like and pleolipoviruses to previously described genomic loci of virus and plasmid-related elements (ViPREs) of haloarchaea revealed an extensive level of recombination between the known haloviruses. PH1 is a member of the same virus group as SH1 and HHIV-2, and we propose the name halosphaerovirus to accommodate these viruses.
The isolation of viable extremely halophilic archaea from 250-million-year-old rock salt suggests the possibility of their long-term survival under desiccation. Since halite has been found on Mars and in meteorites, haloarchaeal survival of martian surface conditions is being explored. Halococcus dombrowskii H4 DSM 14522T was exposed to UV doses over a wavelength range of 200–400 nm to simulate martian UV flux. Cells embedded in a thin layer of laboratory-grown halite were found to accumulate preferentially within fluid inclusions. Survival was assessed by staining with the LIVE/DEAD kit dyes, determining colony-forming units, and using growth tests. Halite-embedded cells showed no loss of viability after exposure to about 21 kJ/m2, and they resumed growth in liquid medium with lag phases of 12 days or more after exposure up to 148 kJ/m2. The estimated D37 (dose of 37 % survival) for Hcc. dombrowskii was ≥ 400 kJ/m2. However, exposure of cells to UV flux while in liquid culture reduced D37 by 2 orders of magnitude (to about 1 kJ/m2); similar results were obtained with Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 and Haloarcula japonica. The absorption of incoming light of shorter wavelength by color centers resulting from defects in the halite crystal structure likely contributed to these results. Under natural conditions, haloarchaeal cells become embedded in salt upon evaporation; therefore, dispersal of potential microscopic life within small crystals, perhaps in dust, on the surface of Mars could resist damage by UV radiation.
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
All tested strains of halophilic archaebacteria of the genera Halobacterium, Haloarcula, Haloferax, and Natronobacterium lysed in 1% Bacto-Peptone (Difco) containing 25% NaCl, whereas no lysis was observed with other strains belonging to archaebacteria of the genera Halococcus, Natronococcus, and Sulfolobus, methanogenic bacteria, and moderately halophilic eubacteria. Substances in Bacto-Peptone which caused lysis of halobacteria were purified and identified as taurocholic acid and glycocholic acid. High-performance liquid chromatography analyses of peptones revealed that Bacto-Peptone contained nine different bile acids, with a total content of 9.53 mg/g, whereas much lower amounts were found in Peptone Bacteriological Technical (Difco) and Oxoid Peptone. Different kinds of peptones can be used to distinguish halophilic eubacteria and archaebacteria in mixed cultures from hypersaline environments.
We report the sequencing of seven genomes from two haloarchaeal genera, Haloferax and Haloarcula. Ease of cultivation and the existence of well-developed genetic and biochemical tools for several diverse haloarchaeal species make haloarchaea a model group for the study of archaeal biology. The unique physiological properties of these organisms also make them good candidates for novel enzyme discovery for biotechnological applications. Seven genomes were sequenced to ∼20×coverage and assembled to an average of 50 contigs (range 5 scaffolds - 168 contigs). Comparisons of protein-coding gene compliments revealed large-scale differences in COG functional group enrichment between these genera. Analysis of genes encoding machinery for DNA metabolism reveals genera-specific expansions of the general transcription factor TATA binding protein as well as a history of extensive duplication and horizontal transfer of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen. Insights gained from this study emphasize the importance of haloarchaea for investigation of archaeal biology.
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
Background and Objectives
Halophilic bacteria produce a variety of pigments, which function as immune modulators and have prophylactic action against cancers. In this study, colorful halophilic bacteria were isolated from solar salt lake and their pigments was extracted in optimal environmental conditions and compared with the pigments of Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755.
Materials and Methods
Water samples from the solar salt lake in Imam Khomeini port in southwest of Iran were used as a source for isolation of pigment-producing bacteria. Halorubrum sodomense ATCC 33755 was used as control for pigment production. The conditions for optimum growth and pigment production were established for the isolated bacteria. Pigment were analyzed by spectrophotometer, TLC and NMR assay. The 16S rRNA genes were sequenced and results were used to differentiate haloarchaea from halophilic bacterial strains.
Among the isolated strains, YS and OS strains and Halorubrum sodomense were recognized as moderate and extremely halophile with maximum growth in the presence of 15% and 30% NaCl concentrations, respectively. Experiments conducted to find out the optimum conditions for growth and pigment production temperature at 25°C, pH = 7.2 and shaking conditions at 120 rpm for three strains. Without shaking, little growth with no pigment production was observed. Total pigment produced by red, yellow and orange strains was measured at 240, 880 and 560 mg per dry cell weight respectively. Amplification yielded bands of to isolated strains only observed with bacteria primers. This result suggesting the YS and OS strains were not haloarchaea.
The isolated halophilic bacteria produced much higher amounts of pigments than Halorubrum sodomense. Photo intermediates including metarhodopsin II (meta II, λmax=380 nm) were determined as major pigment in Halorubrum sodomense.
Halorubrum sodomense; haloarchaea; salt lake; metarhodopsin II; pigment
Halopiger xanaduensis is the type species of the genus Halopiger and belongs to the euryarchaeal family Halobacteriaceae. H. xanaduensis strain SH-6, which is designated as the type strain, was isolated from the sediment of a salt lake in Inner Mongolia, Lake Shangmatala. Like other members of the family Halobacteriaceae, it is an extreme halophile requiring at least 2.5 M salt for growth. We report here the sequencing and annotation of the 4,355,268 bp genome, which includes one chromosome and three plasmids. This genome is part of a Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Community Sequencing Program (CSP) project to sequence diverse haloarchaeal genomes.
Archaea; Euryarchaeota; Halobacteriaceae; extreme halophile
Haloarchaea are the predominant microflora of hypersaline econiches such as solar salterns, soda lakes, and estuaries where the salinity ranges from 35 to 400 ppt. Econiches like estuaries and solar crystallizer ponds may contain high concentrations of metals since they serve as ecological sinks for metal pollution and also as effective traps for river borne metals. The availability of metals in these econiches is determined by the type of metal complexes formed and the solubility of the metal species at such high salinity. Haloarchaea have developed specialized mechanisms for the uptake of metals required for various key physiological processes and are not readily available at high salinity, beside evolving resistance mechanisms for metals with high solubility. The present paper seeks to give an overview of the main molecular mechanisms involved in metal tolerance in haloarchaea and focuses on factors such as salinity and metal speciation that affect the bioavailability of metals to haloarchaea. Global transcriptomic analysis during metal stress in these organisms will help in determining the various factors differentially regulated and essential for metal physiology.
Caribbean salt ponds are unique wetlands that have received little scientific attention. They are common features of dry Caribbean coastlines, but they are threatened by rapid coastal development. We compared hydrology and salinity of 17 salt ponds in the British Virgin Islands. Ponds were mostly hypersaline (>50 ppt), and they exhibited dramatic salinity fluctuations in response to rainfall and evaporation. Individual ponds varied in their mean salinities and thus experienced different ranges of salinity. Differences in mean salinity appeared to be linked with hydrological characteristics. Hydrological variation ranged from permanently inundated ponds with direct sea connection to those fully isolated from the sea and retaining water only after rainfall. We characterized groups of ponds by their major hydrological characteristics, particularly their period of inundation and their degree of connection with the sea. The resulting classification appeared to reflect a continuum of increasing isolation from the sea, concurring with published geological records from salt pond sediments elsewhere. The patterns of variability and succession described here are applicable to salt pond management interests throughout the Caribbean.
Tolerance to bile salts was investigated in forty Bacillus cereus strains, including 17 environmental isolates, 11 dairy isolates, 3 isolates from food poisoning outbreaks, and 9 other clinical isolates. Growth of all strains was observed at low bile salt concentrations, but no growth was observed on LB agar plates containing more than 0.005% bile salts. Preincubation of the B. cereus type strain, ATCC 14579, in low levels of bile salts did not increase tolerance levels. B. cereus ATCC 14579 was grown to mid-exponential growth phase and shifted to medium containing bile salts (0.005%). Global expression patterns were determined by hybridization of total cDNA to a 70-mer oligonucleotide microarray. A general stress response and a specific response to bile salts were observed. The general response was similar to that observed in cultures grown in the absence of bile salts but at a higher (twofold) cell density. Up-regulation of several putative multidrug exporters and transcriptional regulators and down-regulation of most motility genes were observed as part of the specific response. Motility experiments in soft agar showed that motility decreased following bile salts exposure, in accordance with the transcriptional data. Genes encoding putative virulence factors were either unaffected or down-regulated.
Halophiles are extremophiles that thrive in environments with very high concentrations of salt. Although the salt reliance and physiology of these extremophiles have been widely investigated, the molecular working mechanisms of their enzymes under salty conditions have been little explored.
A halophilic esterolytic enzyme LipC derived from archeaon Haloarcula marismortui was overexpressed from Escherichia coli BL21. The purified enzyme showed a range of hydrolytic activity towards the substrates of p-nitrophenyl esters with different alkyl chains (n = 2−16), with the highest activity being observed for p-nitrophenyl acetate, consistent with the basic character of an esterase. The optimal esterase activities were found to be at pH 9.5 and [NaCl] = 3.4 M or [KCl] = 3.0 M and at around 45°C. Interestingly, the hydrolysis activity showed a clear reversibility against changes in salt concentration. At the ambient temperature of 22°C, enzyme systems working under the optimal salt concentrations were very stable against time. Increase in temperature increased the activity but reduced its stability. Circular dichroism (CD), dynamic light scattering (DLS) and small angle neutron scattering (SANS) were deployed to determine the physical states of LipC in solution. As the salt concentration increased, DLS revealed substantial increase in aggregate sizes, but CD measurements revealed the maximal retention of the α-helical structure at the salt concentration matching the optimal activity. These observations were supported by SANS analysis that revealed the highest proportion of unimers and dimers around the optimal salt concentration, although the coexistent larger aggregates showed a trend of increasing size with salt concentration, consistent with the DLS data.
The solution α-helical structure and activity relation also matched the highest proportion of enzyme unimers and dimers. Given that all the solutions studied were structurally inhomogeneous, it is important for future work to understand how the LipC's solution aggregation affected its activity.
Haloarchaeal strains require high concentrations of NaCl for their growth, with optimum concentrations of 10–30%. They display a wide variety of morphology and physiology including pH range for growth. Many strains grow at neutral to slightly alkaline pH, and some only at alkaline pH. However, no strain has been reported to grow only in acidic pH conditions within the family Halobacteriaceae.
In this study, we isolated many halophiles capable of growth in a 20% NaCl medium adjusted to pH 4.5 from 28 commercially available salts. They showed growth at pH 4.0 to 6.5, depending slightly on the magnesium content. The most acidophilic strain MH1-52-1 isolated from an imported solar salt (pH of saturated solution was 9.0) was non-pigmented and extremely halophilic. It was only capable of growing at pH 4.2–4.8 with an optimum at pH 4.4 in a medium with 0.1% magnesium chloride, and at pH 4.0–6.0 (optimum at pH 4.0) in a medium with 5.0% magnesium. The 16S rRNA and DNA-dependent RNA polymerase subunit B' gene sequences demonstrated clearly that the strain MH1-52-1 represents a new genus in the family Halobacteriaceae.
Halolysins are subtilisin-like extracellular proteases produced by haloarchaea that possess unique protein domains and are salt dependent for structural integrity and functionality. In contrast to bacterial subtilases, the maturation mechanism of halolysins has not been addressed. The halolysin Nep is secreted by the alkaliphilic haloarchaeon Natrialba magadii, and the recombinant active enzyme has been synthesized in Haloferax volcanii. Nep contains an N-terminal signal peptide with the typical Tat consensus motif (GRRSVL), an N-terminal propeptide, the protease domain, and a C-terminal domain. In this study, we used Nep as a model protease to examine the secretion and maturation of halolysins by using genetic and biochemical approaches. Mutant variants of Nep were constructed by site-directed mutagenesis and expressed in H. volcanii, which were then analyzed by protease activity and Western blotting. The Tat dependence of Nep secretion was demonstrated in Nep RR/KK variants containing double lysine (KK) in place of the twin arginines (RR), in which Nep remained cell associated and the extracellular activity was undetectable. High-molecular-mass Nep polypeptides without protease activity were detected as cell associated and extracellularly in the Nep S/A variant, in which the catalytic serine 352 had been changed by alanine, indicating that Nep protease activity was needed for precursor processing and activation. Nep NSN 1-2 containing a modification in two potential cleavage sites for signal peptidase I (ASA) was not efficiently processed and activated. This study examined for the first time the secretion and maturation of a Tat-dependent halophilic subtilase.