Organisms of the crenarchaeal order Sulfolobales carry complex CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) adaptive immune systems. These systems are modular and show extensive structural and functional diversity, especially in their interference complexes. The primary targets are an exceptional range of diverse viruses, many of which propagate stably within cells and follow lytic life cycles without producing cell lysis. These properties are consistent with the difficulty of activating CRISPR spacer uptake in the laboratory, but appear to conflict with the high complexity and diversity of the CRISPR immune systems that are found among the Sulfolobales. In the present article, we re-examine the first successful induction of archaeal spacer acquisition in our laboratory that occurred exclusively for the conjugative plasmid pMGB1 in Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 that was co-infected with the virus SMV1 (Sulfolobus monocaudavirus 1). Although we reaffirm that protospacer selection is essentially a random process with respect to the pMGB1 genome, we identified single spacer sequences specific for each of CRISPR loci C, D and E that, exceptionally, occurred in many sequenced clones. Moreover, the same sequence was reproducibly acquired for a given locus in independent experiments, consistent with it being the first protospacer to be selected. There was also a small protospacer bias (1.6:1) to the antisense strand of protein genes. In addition, new experiments demonstrated that spacer acquisition in the previously inactive CRISPR locus A could be induced on freeze–thawing of the infected cells, suggesting that environmental stress can facilitate activation. Coincidentally with spacer acquisition, a mobile OrfB element was deleted from pMGB1, suggesting that interplay can occur between spacer acquisition and transposition.
Archaea; clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats spacer (CRISPR spacer); pMGB1; Sulfolobus; Sulfolobus monocaudavirus 1 (SMV1); transposable element; ATV, Acidianus two-tailed virus; Cas, CRISPR-associated; CRISPR, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; crRNA, CRISPR RNA; IS, insertion sequence; PAM, protospacer-adjacent motif; p.i., post-infection; SIRV, Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus; SMV1, Sulfolobus monocaudavirus 1; SSV, Sulfolobus spindle-shaped virus; STIV, Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus; STSV1, Sulfolobus tengchongensis spindle-shaped virus 1
Protospacer adjacent motifs (PAMs) were originally characterized for CRISPR-Cas systems that were classified on the basis of their CRISPR repeat sequences. A few short 2–5 bp sequences were identified adjacent to one end of the protospacers. Experimental and bioinformatical results linked the motif to the excision of protospacers and their insertion into CRISPR loci. Subsequently, evidence accumulated from different virus- and plasmid-targeting assays, suggesting that these motifs were also recognized during DNA interference, at least for the recently classified type I and type II CRISPR-based systems. The two processes, spacer acquisition and protospacer interference, employ different molecular mechanisms, and there is increasing evidence to suggest that the sequence motifs that are recognized, while overlapping, are unlikely to be identical. In this article, we consider the properties of PAM sequences and summarize the evidence for their dual functional roles. It is proposed to use the terms protospacer associated motif (PAM) for the conserved DNA sequence and to employ spacer acqusition motif (SAM) and target interference motif (TIM), respectively, for acquisition and interference recognition sites.
adaptive immunity; CRISPR; protospacer; PAM; SAM; TIM
We report the consensus genome sequence of a novel GC-rich rudivirus, designated SMR1 (Sulfolobales Mexican rudivirus 1), assembled from a high-throughput sequenced environmental sample from a hot spring in Los Azufres National Park in western Mexico.
Here, we report the draft genome sequence of Acidocella sp. strain MX-AZ02, an acidophilic and heterotrophic alphaproteobacterium isolated from a geothermal lake in western Mexico.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) form the basis of diverse adaptive immune systems directed primarily against invading genetic elements of archaea and bacteria. Cbp1 of the crenarchaeal thermoacidophilic order Sulfolobales, carrying three imperfect repeats, binds specifically to CRISPR DNA repeats and has been implicated in facilitating production of long transcripts from CRISPR loci. Here, a second related class of CRISPR DNA repeat-binding protein, denoted Cbp2, is characterized that contains two imperfect repeats and is found amongst members of the crenarchaeal thermoneutrophilic order Desulfurococcales. DNA repeat-binding properties of the Hyperthermus butylicus protein Cbp2Hb were characterized and its three-dimensional structure was determined by NMR spectroscopy. The two repeats generate helix-turn-helix structures separated by a basic linker that is implicated in facilitating high affinity DNA binding of Cbp2 by tethering the two domains. Structural studies on mutant proteins provide support for Cys7 and Cys28 enhancing high thermal stability of Cbp2Hb through disulphide bridge formation. Consistent with their proposed CRISPR transcriptional regulatory role, Cbp2Hb and, by inference, other Cbp1 and Cbp2 proteins are closely related in structure to homeodomain proteins with linked helix-turn-helix (HTH) domains, in particular the paired domain Pax and Myb family proteins that are involved in eukaryal transcriptional regulation.
Acidianus two-tailed virus (ATV) infects crenarchaea of the genus Acidianus living in terrestrial thermal springs at extremely high temperatures and low pH. ATV is a member of the Bicaudaviridae virus family and undergoes extra-cellular development of two tails, a process that is unique in the viral world. To understand this intriguing phenomenon, we have undertaken structural studies of ATV virion proteins and here we present the crystal structure of one of these proteins, ATV. ATV forms tetramers in solution and a molecular envelope is provided for the tetramer, computed from small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) data. The crystal structure has properties typical of hyperthermostable proteins, including a relatively high number of salt bridges. However, the protein also exhibits flexible loops and surface pockets. Remarkably, ATV displays a new protein fold, consistent with the absence of homologues of this protein in public sequence databases.
The maternally inherited α-Proteobacteria Wolbachia pipientis is an obligate endosymbiont of nematodes and arthropods, in which they induce a variety of reproductive alterations, including Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI) and feminization. The genome of the feminizing wVulC Wolbachia strain harboured by the isopod Armadillidium vulgare has been sequenced and is now at the final assembly step. It contains an unusually high number of ankyrin motif-containing genes, two of which are homologous to the phage-related pk1 and pk2 genes thought to contribute to the CI phenotype in Culex pipiens. These genes encode putative bacterial effectors mediating Wolbachia-host protein-protein interactions via their ankyrin motifs.
To test whether these Wolbachia homologs are potentially involved in altering terrestrial isopod reproduction, we determined the distribution and expression of both pk1 and pk2 genes in the 3 Wolbachia strains that induce CI and in 5 inducing feminization of their isopod hosts. Aside from the genes being highly conserved, we found a substantial copy number variation among strains, and that is linked to prophage diversity. Transcriptional analyses revealed expression of one pk2 allele (pk2b2) only in the feminizing Wolbachia strains of isopods.
These results reveal the need to investigate the functions of Wolbachia ankyrin gene products, in particular those of Pk2, and their host targets with respect to host sex manipulation.
CRISPR loci are essential components of the adaptive immune system of archaea and bacteria. They consist of long arrays of repeats separated by DNA spacers encoding guide RNAs (crRNA), which target foreign genetic elements. Cbp1 (CRISPR DNA repeat binding protein) binds specifically to the multiple direct repeats of CRISPR loci of members of the acidothermophilic, crenarchaeal order Sulfolobales. cbp1 gene deletion from Sulfolobus islandicus REY15A produced a strong reduction in pre-crRNA yields from CRISPR loci but did not inhibit the foreign DNA targeting capacity of the CRISPR/Cas system. Conversely, overexpression of Cbp1 in S. islandicus generated an increase in pre-crRNA yields while the level of reverse strand transcripts from CRISPR loci remained unchanged. It is proposed that Cbp1 modulates production of longer pre-crRNA transcripts from CRISPR loci. A possible mechanism is that it minimizes interference from potential transcriptional signals carried on spacers deriving from A-T-rich genetic elements and, occasionally, on DNA repeats. Supporting evidence is provided by microarray and northern blotting analyses, and publicly available whole-transcriptome data for S. solfataricus P2.
The crenarchaeal Acidianus two-tailed virus (ATV) undergoes a remarkable morphological development, extracellularly and independently of host cells, by growing long tails at each end of a spindle-shaped virus particle. Initial work suggested that an intermediate filament-like protein, p800, is involved in this process. We propose that an additional chaperone system is required, consisting of a MoxR-type AAA ATPase (p618) and a von Willebrand domain A (VWA)-containing cochaperone, p892. Both proteins are absent from the other known bicaudavirus, STSV1, which develops a single tail intracellularly. p618 exhibits ATPase activity and forms a hexameric ring complex that closely resembles the oligomeric complex of the MoxR-like protein RavA (YieN). ATV proteins p387, p653, p800, and p892 interact with p618, and with the exception of p800, all bind to DNA. A model is proposed to rationalize the interactions observed between the different protein and DNA components and to explain their possible structural and functional roles in extracellular tail development.
The genomes of two Sulfolobus islandicus strains obtained from Icelandic solfataras were sequenced and analyzed. Strain REY15A is a host for a versatile genetic toolbox. It exhibits a genome of minimal size, is stable genetically, and is easy to grow and manipulate. Strain HVE10/4 shows a broad host range for exceptional crenarchaeal viruses and conjugative plasmids and was selected for studying their life cycles and host interactions. The genomes of strains REY15A and HVE10/4 are 2.5 and 2.7 Mb, respectively, and each genome carries a variable region of 0.5 to 0.7 Mb where major differences in gene content and gene order occur. These include gene clusters involved in specific metabolic pathways, multiple copies of VapBC antitoxin-toxin gene pairs, and in strain HVE10/4, a 50-kb region rich in glycosyl transferase genes. The variable region also contains most of the insertion sequence (IS) elements and high proportions of the orphan orfB elements and SMN1 miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs), as well as the clustered regular interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-based immune systems, which are complex and diverse in both strains, consistent with them having been mobilized both intra- and intercellularly. In contrast, the remainder of the genomes are highly conserved in their protein and RNA gene syntenies, closely resembling those of other S. islandicus and Sulfolobus solfataricus strains, and they exhibit only minor remnants of a few genetic elements, mainly conjugative plasmids, which have integrated at a few tRNA genes lacking introns. This provides a possible rationale for the presence of the introns.
The Rudiviridae are a family of rod-shaped archaeal viruses with covalently closed, linear double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes. Their replication mechanisms remain obscure, although parallels have been drawn to the Poxviridae and other large cytoplasmic eukaryotic viruses. Here we report that a protein encoded in the 34-kbp genome of the rudivirus SIRV1 is a member of the replication initiator (Rep) superfamily of proteins, which initiate rolling-circle replication (RCR) of diverse viruses and plasmids. We show that SIRV Rep nicks the viral hairpin terminus, forming a covalent adduct between an active-site tyrosine and the 5′ end of the DNA, releasing a 3′ DNA end as a primer for DNA synthesis. The enzyme can also catalyze the joining reaction that is necessary to reseal the DNA hairpin and terminate replication. The dimeric structure points to a simple mechanism through which two closely positioned active sites, each with a single tyrosine residue, work in tandem to catalyze DNA nicking and joining. We propose a novel mechanism for rudivirus DNA replication, incorporating the first known example of a Rep protein that is not linked to RCR. The implications for Rep protein function and viral replication are discussed.
The Acidianus hospitalis W1 genome consists of a minimally sized chromosome of about 2.13 Mb and a conjugative plasmid pAH1 and it is a host for the model filamentous lipothrixvirus AFV1. The chromosome carries three putative replication origins in conserved genomic regions and two large regions where non-essential genes are clustered. Within these variable regions, a few orphan orfB and other elements of the IS200/607/605 family are concentrated with a novel class of MITE-like repeat elements. There are also 26 highly diverse vapBC antitoxin–toxin gene pairs proposed to facilitate maintenance of local chromosomal regions and to minimise the impact of environmental stress. Complex and partially defective CRISPR/Cas/Cmr immune systems are present and interspersed with five vapBC gene pairs. Remnants of integrated viral genomes and plasmids are located at five intron-less tRNA genes and several non-coding RNA genes are predicted that are conserved in other Sulfolobus genomes. The putative metabolic pathways for sulphur metabolism show some significant differences from those proposed for other Acidianus and Sulfolobus species. The small and relatively stable genome of A. hospitalis W1 renders it a promising candidate for developing the first Acidianus genetic systems.
Toxin–antitoxin VapBC; CRISPR; Sulphur metabolism; OrfB element; MITE
The Scottish Structural Proteomics Facility was funded to develop a laboratory scale approach to high throughput structure determination. The effort was successful in that over 40 structures were determined. These structures and the methods harnessed to obtain them are reported here. This report reflects on the value of automation but also on the continued requirement for a high degree of scientific and technical expertise. The efficiency of the process poses challenges to the current paradigm of structural analysis and publication. In the 5 year period we published ten peer-reviewed papers reporting structural data arising from the pipeline. Nevertheless, the number of structures solved exceeded our ability to analyse and publish each new finding. By reporting the experimental details and depositing the structures we hope to maximize the impact of the project by allowing others to follow up the relevant biology.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10969-010-9090-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
High-throughput; Protein crystallography; Structural proteomics; SSPF
A newly characterized archaeal rudivirus Stygiolobus rod-shaped virus (SRV), which infects a hyperthermophilic Stygiolobus species, was isolated from a hot spring in the Azores, Portugal. Its virions are rod-shaped, 702 (± 50) by 22 (± 3) nm in size, and nonenveloped and carry three tail fibers at each terminus. The linear double-stranded DNA genome contains 28,096 bp and an inverted terminal repeat of 1,030 bp. The SRV shows morphological and genomic similarities to the other characterized rudiviruses Sulfolobus rod-shaped virus 1 (SIRV1), SIRV2, and Acidianus rod-shaped virus 1, isolated from hot acidic springs of Iceland and Italy. The single major rudiviral structural protein is shown to generate long tubular structures in vitro of similar dimensions to those of the virion, and we estimate that the virion constitutes a single, superhelical, double-stranded DNA embedded into such a protein structure. Three additional minor conserved structural proteins are also identified. Ubiquitous rudiviral proteins with assigned functions include glycosyl transferases and a S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferase, as well as a Holliday junction resolvase, a transcriptionally coupled helicase and nuclease implicated in DNA replication. Analysis of matches between known crenarchaeal chromosomal CRISPR spacer sequences, implicated in a viral defense system, and rudiviral genomes revealed that about 10% of the 3,042 unique acidothermophile spacers yield significant matches to rudiviral genomes, with a bias to highly conserved protein genes, consistent with the widespread presence of rudiviruses in hot acidophilic environments. We propose that the 12-bp indels which are commonly found in conserved rudiviral protein genes may be generated as a reaction to the presence of the host CRISPR defense system.
Crystals of S. islandicus filamentous virus (SIFV) protein 14 have been grown at 293 K. Crystals belong to space group P6222 or P6422 and diffract to a resolution of 2.95 Å.
A large-scale programme has been embarked upon aiming towards the structural determination of conserved proteins from viruses infecting hyperthermophilic archaea. Here, the crystallization of protein 14 from the archaeal virus SIFV is reported. This protein, which contains 111 residues (MW 13 465 Da), was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli with an N-terminal His6 tag and purified to homogeneity. The tag was subsequently cleaved and the protein was crystallized using PEG 1000 or PEG 4000 as a precipitant. Large crystals were obtained of the native and the selenomethionine-labelled protein using sitting drops of 100–300 nl. Crystals belong to space group P6222 or P6422, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 68.1, c = 132.4 Å. Diffraction data were collected to a maximum acceptable resolution of 2.95 and 3.20 Å for the SeMet-labelled and native protein, respectively.
protein 14; Sulfolobus islandicus filamentous virus
Four novel filamentous viruses with double-stranded DNA genomes, namely, Acidianus filamentous virus 3 (AFV3), AFV6, AFV7, and AFV8, have been characterized from the hyperthermophilic archaeal genus Acidianus, and they are assigned to the Betalipothrixvirus genus of the family Lipothrixviridae. The structures of the approximately 2-μm-long virions are similar, and one of them, AFV3, was studied in detail. It consists of a cylindrical envelope containing globular subunits arranged in a helical formation that is unique for any known double-stranded DNA virus. The envelope is 3.1 nm thick and encases an inner core with two parallel rows of protein subunits arranged like a zipper. Each end of the virion is tapered and carries three short filaments. Two major structural proteins were identified as being common to all betalipothrixviruses. The viral genomes were sequenced and analyzed, and they reveal a high level of conservation in both gene content and gene order over large regions, with this similarity extending partly to the earlier described betalipothrixvirus Sulfolobus islandicus filamentous virus. A few predicted gene products of each virus, in addition to the structural proteins, could be assigned specific functions, including a putative helicase involved in Holliday junction branch migration, a nuclease, a protein phosphatase, transcriptional regulators, and glycosyltransferases. The AFV7 genome appears to have undergone intergenomic recombination with a large section of an AFV2-like viral genome, apparently resulting in phenotypic changes, as revealed by the presence of AFV2-like termini in the AFV7 virions. Shared features of the genomes include (i) large inverted terminal repeats exhibiting conserved, regularly spaced direct repeats; (ii) a highly conserved operon encoding the two major structural proteins; (iii) multiple overlapping open reading frames, which may be indicative of gene recoding; (iv) putative 12-bp genetic elements; and (v) partial gene sequences corresponding closely to spacer sequences of chromosomal repeat clusters.
Hyperthermus butylicus, a hyperthermophilic
neutrophile and anaerobe, is a member of the archaeal kingdom
Crenarchaeota. Its genome consists of a single circular chromosome of
1,667,163 bp with a 53.7% G+C content. A total of 1672 genes were
annotated, of which 1602 are protein-coding, and up to a third are
specific to H. butylicus. In contrast to some other
crenarchaeal genomes, a high level of GUG and UUG start codons are
predicted. Two cdc6 genes are present, but neither
could be linked unambiguously to an origin of replication. Many of the
predicted metabolic gene products are associated with the fermentation
of peptide mixtures including several peptidases with diverse
specificities, and there are many encoded transporters. Most of the
sulfur-reducing enzymes, hydrogenases and electron-transfer proteins
were identified which are associated with energy production by
reducing sulfur to H2S. Two large clusters of regularly
interspaced repeats (CRISPRs) are present, one of which is associated
with a crenarchaeal-type cas gene superoperon; none
of the spacer sequences yielded good sequence matches with known
archaeal chromosomal elements. The genome carries no detectable
transposable or integrated elements, no inteins, and introns are
exclusive to tRNA genes. This suggests that the genome structure is
quite stable, possibly reflecting a constant, and relatively
uncompetitive, natural environment.
anaerobe; genome analysis; hyperthermophile; solfataric habitat
The genome of Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 carries a larger number of transposable elements than any other sequenced genome from an archaeon or bacterium and, as a consequence, may be particularly susceptible to rearrangement and change. In order to gain more insight into the natures and frequencies of different types of mutation and possible rearrangements that can occur in the genome, the pyrEF locus was examined for mutations that were isolated after selection with 5-fluoroorotic acid. About two-thirds of the 130 mutations resulted from insertions of mobile elements, including insertion sequence (IS) elements and a single nonautonomous mobile element, SM2. For each of these, the element was identified and shown to be present at its original genomic position, consistent with a progressive increase in the copy numbers of the mobile elements. In addition, several base pair substitutions, as well as small deletions, insertions, and a duplication, were observed, and about one-fifth of the mutations occurred elsewhere in the genome, possibly in an orotate transporter gene. One mutant exhibited a 5-kb genomic rearrangement at the pyrEF locus involving a two-step IS element-dependent reaction, and its boundaries were defined using a specially developed “in vitro library” strategy. Moreover, while searching for the donor mobile elements, evidence was found for two major changes that had occurred in the genome of strain P2, one constituting a single deletion of about 4% of the total genome (124 kb), while the other involved the inversion of a 25-kb region. Both were bordered by IS elements and were inferred to have arisen through recombination events. The results underline the caution required in working experimentally with an organism such as S. solfataricus with a continually changing genome.
Clusters of regularly spaced direct repeats, separated by unconserved
spacer sequences, are ubiquitous in archaeal chromosomes and occur in
some plasmids. Some clusters constitute around 1% of chromosomal DNA.
Similarly structured clusters, generally smaller, also occur in some
bacterial chromosomes. Although early studies implicated these
clusters in segregation/partition functions, recent evidence suggests
that the spacer sequences derive from extrachromosomal elements, and,
primarily, viruses. This has led to the proposal that the clusters
provide a defence against viral propagation in cells, and that both
the mode of inhibition of viral propagation and the mechanism of
adding spacer-repeat units to clusters, are dependent on RNAs
transcribed from the clusters. Moreover, the putative inhibitory
apparatus (piRNA-based) may be evolutionarily related to the
interference RNA systems (siRNA and miRNA), which are common in
eukarya. Here, we analyze all the current data on archaeal repeat
clusters and provide some new insights into their diverse structures,
transcriptional properties and mode of structural development. The
results are consistent with larger cluster transcripts being processed
at the centers of the repeat sequences and being further trimmed by
exonucleases to yield a dominant, intracellular RNA species, which
corresponds approximately to the size of a spacer. Furthermore,
analysis of the extensive clusters of Sulfolobus
solfataricus strains P1 and P2B provides support for the
presence of a flanking sequence adjoining a cluster being a
prerequisite for the incorporation of new spacer-repeat units, which
occurs between the flanking sequence and the cluster. An archaeal
database summarizing the data will be maintained at
archaeal genomes; piRNA; plasmids; SRSR-CRISPR; viruses
Virus-like particles with five different morphotypes were observed in an enriched environmental sample from a hot, acidic spring (87 to 93°C, pH 1.5) in Pozzuoli, Italy. The morphotypes included rigid rods, flexible filaments, and novel, exceptional forms. Particles of each type were isolated, and they were shown to represent viable virions of five novel viruses which infect members of the hyperthermophilic archaeal genus Acidianus. One of these, named the Acidianus bottle-shaped virus, ABV, exhibits a previously unreported morphotype. The bottle-shaped virion carries an envelope which encases a funnel-shaped core. The pointed end of the virion is likely to be involved in adsorption and channeling of viral DNA into host cells. The broad end exhibits 20 (± 2) thin filaments which appear to be inserted into a disk, or ring, and are interconnected at their bases. These filaments are apparently not involved in adsorption. ABV virions contain six proteins in the size range 15 to 80 kDa and a 23.9-kb linear, double-stranded DNA genome. Virus replication does not cause lysis of host cells. On the basis of its unique morphotype and structure, we propose to assign ABV to a new viral family, the Ampullaviridae.
Sulfolobus acidocaldarius is an aerobic thermoacidophilic crenarchaeon which grows optimally at 80°C and pH 2 in terrestrial solfataric springs. Here, we describe the genome sequence of strain DSM639, which has been used for many seminal studies on archaeal and crenarchaeal biology. The circular genome carries 2,225,959 bp (37% G+C) with 2,292 predicted protein-encoding genes. Many of the smaller genes were identified for the first time on the basis of comparison of three Sulfolobus genome sequences. Of the protein-coding genes, 305 are exclusive to S. acidocaldarius and 866 are specific to the Sulfolobus genus. Moreover, 82 genes for untranslated RNAs were identified and annotated. Owing to the probable absence of active autonomous and nonautonomous mobile elements, the genome stability and organization of S. acidocaldarius differ radically from those of Sulfolobus solfataricus and Sulfolobus tokodaii. The S. acidocaldarius genome contains an integrated, and probably encaptured, pARN-type conjugative plasmid which may facilitate intercellular chromosomal gene exchange in S. acidocaldarius. Moreover, it contains genes for a characteristic restriction modification system, a UV damage excision repair system, thermopsin, and an aromatic ring dioxygenase, all of which are absent from genomes of other Sulfolobus species. However, it lacks genes for some of their sugar transporters, consistent with it growing on a more limited range of carbon sources. These results, together with the many newly identified protein-coding genes for Sulfolobus, are incorporated into a public Sulfolobus database which can be accessed at http://dac.molbio.ku.dk/dbs/Sulfolobus.
A novel filamentous virus, AFV2, from the hyperthermophilic archaeal genus Acidianus shows structural similarity to lipothrixviruses but differs from them in its unusual terminal and core structures. The double-stranded DNA genome contains 31,787 bp and carries eight open reading frames homologous to those of other lipothrixviruses, a single tRNALys gene containing a 12-bp archaeal intron, and a 1,008-bp repeat-rich region near the center of the genome.
Three plasmids isolated from the crenarchaeal thermoacidophile
Sulfolobus neozealandicus were characterized.
Plasmids pTAU4 (7,192 bp), pORA1 (9,689 bp) and pTIK4 (13,638 bp) show
unusual properties that distinguish them from previously characterized
cryptic plasmids of the genus Sulfolobus. Plasmids
pORA1 and pTIK4 encode RepA proteins, only the former of which carries
the novel polymerase–primase domain of other known
Sulfolobus plasmids. Plasmid pTAU4 encodes a
mini-chromosome maintenance protein homolog and no RepA protein; the
implications for DNA replication are considered. Plasmid pORA1 is the
first Sulfolobus plasmid to be characterized that
does not encode the otherwise highly conserved DNA-binding PlrA
protein. Another encoded protein appears to be specific for the New
Zealand plasmids. The three plasmids should provide useful model
systems for functional studies of these important crenarchaeal
chemotaxis; crenarchaeal plasmid; DNA replicase; MCM protein
All of the known self-transmissable plasmids of the Archaea have been
found in the genus Sulfolobus. To gain more insight
into archaeal conjugative processes, four newly isolated
self-transmissable plasmids, pKEF9, pHVE14, pARN3 and pARN4, were
sequenced and subjected to a comparative sequence analysis with two
earlier sequenced plasmids, pNOB8 and pING1. The analyses revealed
three conserved and functionally distinct sections in the genomes.
Section A is considered to encode the main components of the
conjugative apparatus, where two genes show low but significant
sequence similarity to sections of genes encoding bacterial
conjugative proteins. A putative origin of replication is located in
section B, which is highly conserved in sequence and contains several
perfect and imperfect direct and inverted repeats. Further downstream,
in section C, an operon encoding six to nine smaller proteins is
implicated in the initiation and regulation of replication. Each
plasmid carries an integrase gene of the type that does not partition
on integration, and there is strong evidence for their integration
into host chromosomes, where they may facilitate intercellular
exchange of chromosomal genes. Two plasmids contain hexameric short
regularly spaced repeats (SRSR), which have been implicated in plasmid
maintenance, and each plasmid carries multiple recombination motifs,
concentrated in the variable regions, which likely provide sites for
pARN3; pARN4; pHVE14; pKEF9; SRSR cluster
Short regularly spaced repeats (SRSRs) occur in multiple large clusters in archaeal chromosomes and as smaller clusters in some archaeal conjugative plasmids and bacterial chromosomes. The sequence, size, and spacing of the repeats are generally constant within a cluster but vary between clusters. For the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus P2, the repeats in the genome fall mainly into two closely related sequence families that are arranged in seven clusters containing a total of 441 repeats which constitute ca. 1% of the genome. The Sulfolobus conjugative plasmid pNOB8 contains a small cluster of six repeats that are identical in sequence to one of the repeat variants in the S. solfataricus chromosome. Repeats from the pNOB8 cluster were amplified and tested for protein binding with cell extracts from S. solfataricus. A 17.5-kDa SRSR-binding protein was purified from the cell extracts and sequenced. The protein is N terminally modified and corresponds to SSO454, an open reading frame of previously unassigned function. It binds specifically to DNA fragments carrying double and single repeat sequences, binding on one side of the repeat structure, and producing an opening of the opposite side of the DNA structure. It also recognizes both main families of repeat sequences in S. solfataricus. The recombinant protein, expressed in Escherichia coli, showed the same binding properties to the SRSR repeat as the native one. The SSO454 protein exhibits a tripartite internal repeat structure which yields a good sequence match with a helix-turn-helix DNA-binding motif. Although this putative motif is shared by other archaeal proteins, orthologs of SSO454 were only detected in species within the Sulfolobus genus and in the closely related Acidianus genus. We infer that the genus-specific protein induces an opening of the structure at the center of each DNA repeat and thereby produces a binding site for another protein, possibly a more conserved one, in a process that may be essential for higher-order stucturing of the SRSR clusters.