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1.  Generation and Phenotyping of a Collection of sRNA Gene Deletion Mutants of the Haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90763.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii was shown to contain 145 intergenic and 45 antisense sRNAs. In a comprehensive approach to unravel various biological roles of haloarchaeal sRNAs in vivo, 27 sRNA genes were selected and deletion mutants were generated. The phenotypes of these mutants were compared to that of the parent strain under ten different conditions, i.e. growth on four different carbon sources, growth at three different salt concentrations, and application of four different stress conditions. In addition, cell morphologies in exponential and stationary phase were observed. Furthermore, swarming of 17 mutants was analyzed. 24 of the 27 mutants exhibited a difference from the parent strain under at least one condition, revealing that haloarchaeal sRNAs are involved in metabolic regulation, growth under extreme conditions, regulation of morphology and behavior, and stress adaptation. Notably, 7 deletion mutants showed a gain of function phenotype, which has not yet been described for any other prokaryotic sRNA gene deletion mutant. Comparison of the transcriptomes of one sRNA gene deletion mutant and the parent strain led to the identification of differentially expressed genes. Genes for flagellins and chemotaxis were up-regulated in the mutant, in accordance with its gain of function swarming phenotype. While the deletion mutant analysis underscored that haloarchaeal sRNAs are involved in many biological functions, the degree of conservation is extremely low. Only 3 of the 27 genes are conserved in more than 10 haloarchaeal species. 22 of the 27 genes are confined to H. volcanii, indicating a fast evolution of haloarchaeal sRNA genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090763
PMCID: PMC3956466  PMID: 24637842
2.  A Complex of Cas Proteins 5, 6, and 7 Is Required for the Biogenesis and Stability of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-derived RNAs (crRNAs) in Haloferax volcanii* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(10):7164-7177.
Background: The Cas6 protein is required for generating crRNAs in CRISPR-Cas I and III systems.
Results: The Cas6 protein is necessary for crRNA production but not sufficient for crRNA maintenance in Haloferax.
Conclusion: A Cascade-like complex is required in the type I-B system for a stable crRNA population.
Significance: The CRISPR-Cas system I-B has a similar Cascade complex like types I-A and I-E.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR-Cas) system is a prokaryotic defense mechanism against foreign genetic elements. A plethora of CRISPR-Cas versions exist, with more than 40 different Cas protein families and several different molecular approaches to fight the invading DNA. One of the key players in the system is the CRISPR-derived RNA (crRNA), which directs the invader-degrading Cas protein complex to the invader. The CRISPR-Cas types I and III use the Cas6 protein to generate mature crRNAs. Here, we show that the Cas6 protein is necessary for crRNA production but that additional Cas proteins that form a CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense (Cascade)-like complex are needed for crRNA stability in the CRISPR-Cas type I-B system in Haloferax volcanii in vivo. Deletion of the cas6 gene results in the loss of mature crRNAs and interference. However, cells that have the complete cas gene cluster (cas1–8b) removed and are transformed with the cas6 gene are not able to produce and stably maintain mature crRNAs. crRNA production and stability is rescued only if cas5, -6, and -7 are present. Mutational analysis of the cas6 gene reveals three amino acids (His-41, Gly-256, and Gly-258) that are essential for pre-crRNA cleavage, whereas the mutation of two amino acids (Ser-115 and Ser-224) leads to an increase of crRNA amounts. This is the first systematic in vivo analysis of Cas6 protein variants. In addition, we show that the H. volcanii I-B system contains a Cascade-like complex with a Cas7, Cas5, and Cas6 core that protects the crRNA.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M113.508184
PMCID: PMC3945376  PMID: 24459147
Archaea; Microbiology; Molecular Biology; Molecular Genetics; Protein Complexes; CRISPR/Cas; Cas6; Haloferax volcanii; crRNA; Type I-B
3.  Essential requirements for the detection and degradation of invaders by the Haloferax volcanii CRISPR/Cas system I-B 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):865-874.
To fend off foreign genetic elements, prokaryotes have developed several defense systems. The most recently discovered defense system, CRISPR/Cas, is sequence-specific, adaptive and heritable. The two central components of this system are the Cas proteins and the CRISPR RNA. The latter consists of repeat sequences that are interspersed with spacer sequences. The CRISPR locus is transcribed into a precursor RNA that is subsequently processed into short crRNAs. CRISPR/Cas systems have been identified in bacteria and archaea, and data show that many variations of this system exist. We analyzed the requirements for a successful defense reaction in the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii. Haloferax encodes a CRISPR/Cas system of the I-B subtype, about which very little is known. Analysis of the mature crRNAs revealed that they contain a spacer as their central element, which is preceded by an eight-nucleotide-long 5′ handle that originates from the upstream repeat. The repeat sequences have the potential to fold into a minimal stem loop. Sequencing of the crRNA population indicated that not all of the spacers that are encoded by the three CRISPR loci are present in the same abundance. By challenging Haloferax with an invader plasmid, we demonstrated that the interaction of the crRNA with the invader DNA requires a 10-nucleotide-long seed sequence. In addition, we found that not all of the crRNAs from the three CRISPR loci are effective at triggering the degradation of invader plasmids. The interference does not seem to be influenced by the copy number of the invader plasmid.
doi:10.4161/rna.24282
PMCID: PMC3737343  PMID: 23594992
archaea; Haloferax volcanii; CRISPR/Cas; crRNA; PAM; seed sequence
4.  Special focus CRISPR-Cas 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):655-658.
doi:10.4161/rna.24687
PMCID: PMC3737322  PMID: 23872677
5.  The immune system of halophilic archaea 
Mobile Genetic Elements  2012;2(5):228-232.
Prokaryotes have developed several strategies to defend themselves against foreign genetic elements. One of those defense mechanisms is the recently identified CRISPR/Cas system, which is used by approximately half of all bacterial and almost all archaeal organisms. The CRISPR/Cas system differs from the other defense strategies because it is adaptive, hereditary and it recognizes the invader by a sequence specific mechanism. To identify the invading foreign nucleic acid, a crRNA that matches the invader DNA is required, as well as a short sequence motif called protospacer adjacent motif (PAM). We recently identified the PAM sequences for the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii, and found that several motifs were active in triggering the defense reaction. In contrast, selection of protospacers from the invader seems to be based on fewer PAM sequences, as evidenced by comparative sequence data. This suggests that the selection of protospacers has stricter requirements than the defense reaction. Comparison of CRISPR-repeat sequences carried by sequenced haloarchaea revealed that in more than half of the species, the repeat sequence is conserved and that they have the same CRISPR/Cas type.
doi:10.4161/mge.22530
PMCID: PMC3575430  PMID: 23446883
Haloferax volcanii; CRISPR/Cas; PAM; archaea; prokaryotic immune system; haloarchaea
6.  Small RNAs for defence and regulation in archaea 
Extremophiles  2012;16(5):685-696.
Non-coding RNAs are key players in many cellular processes within organisms from all three domains of life. The range and diversity of small RNA functions beyond their involvement in translation and RNA processing was first recognized for eukaryotes and bacteria. Since then, small RNAs were also found to be abundant in archaea. Their functions include the regulation of gene expression and the establishment of immunity against invading mobile genetic elements. This review summarizes our current knowledge about small RNAs used for regulation and defence in archaea.
doi:10.1007/s00792-012-0469-5
PMCID: PMC3432209  PMID: 22763819
sRNA; Lsm; Hfq; Archaea; CRISPR; crRNA
7.  An Archaeal Immune System Can Detect Multiple Protospacer Adjacent Motifs (PAMs) to Target Invader DNA* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(40):33351-33363.
Background: CRISPR/Cas systems allow archaea and bacteria to resist invasion by foreign nucleic acids.
Results: The CRISPR/Cas system in Haloferax recognized six different PAM sequences that could trigger a defense response.
Conclusion: The PAM sequence specificity of the defense response in type I CRISPR systems is more relaxed than previously thought.
Significance: The PAM sequence requirements for interference and adaptation appear to differ markedly.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) system provides adaptive and heritable immunity against foreign genetic elements in most archaea and many bacteria. Although this system is widespread and diverse with many subtypes, only a few species have been investigated to elucidate the precise mechanisms for the defense of viruses or plasmids. Approximately 90% of all sequenced archaea encode CRISPR/Cas systems, but their molecular details have so far only been examined in three archaeal species: Sulfolobus solfataricus, Sulfolobus islandicus, and Pyrococcus furiosus. Here, we analyzed the CRISPR/Cas system of Haloferax volcanii using a plasmid-based invader assay. Haloferax encodes a type I-B CRISPR/Cas system with eight Cas proteins and three CRISPR loci for which the identity of protospacer adjacent motifs (PAMs) was unknown until now. We identified six different PAM sequences that are required upstream of the protospacer to permit target DNA recognition. This is only the second archaeon for which PAM sequences have been determined, and the first CRISPR group with such a high number of PAM sequences. Cells could survive the plasmid challenge if their CRISPR/Cas system was altered or defective, e.g. by deletion of the cas gene cassette. Experimental PAM data were supplemented with bioinformatics data on Haloferax and Haloquadratum.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M112.377002
PMCID: PMC3460438  PMID: 22767603
Archaea; Microbiology; RNA; RNA Metabolism; RNA Processing; CRISPR/Cas; Haloferax volcanii; PAM
8.  High throughput sequencing reveals a plethora of small RNAs including tRNA derived fragments in Haloferax volcanii 
RNA Biology  2012;9(7):1011-1018.
To define the complete sRNA population of the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii, we employed high throughput sequencing. cDNAs were generated from RNA ranging in size from 17 to 500 nucleotides isolated from cells grown at three different conditions to exponential and stationary phase, respectively. Altogether, 145 intergenic and 45 antisense sRNAs were identified. Comparison of the expression profile showed different numbers of reads at the six different conditions for the majority of sRNAs. A striking difference in the number of sRNA reads was observed between cells grown under standard vs. low salt conditions. Furthermore, the six highest numbers of reads were found for low salt conditions. In contrast, only slight differences between sRNA reads at different growth temperatures were detected. Attempts to delete four sRNA genes revealed that one sRNA gene is essential. The three viable sRNA gene deletion mutants possessed distinct phenotypes. According to microarray analyses, the removal of the sRNA gene resulted in a profound change of the transcriptome when compared with the wild type. High throughput sequencing also showed the presence of high concentrations of tRNA derived fragments in H. volcanii. These tRF molecules were shown to have different amounts of reads at the six conditions analyzed. Northern analysis was used to confirm the presence of the tRNA-derived fragments.
doi:10.4161/rna.20826
PMCID: PMC3495736  PMID: 22767255
Haloferax volcanii; archaea; high throughput sequencing; sRNAs; tRFs
9.  Assigning a function to a conserved archaeal metallo-β-lactamase from Haloferax volcanii 
Extremophiles  2012;16(2):333-343.
The metallo-β-lactamase family of enzymes comprises a large group of proteins with diverse functions in the metabolism of the cell. Among others, this superfamily contains proteins which are involved in DNA and RNA metabolism, acting as nucleases in e.g. repair and maturation. Many proteins have been annotated in prokaryotic genomes as being potential metallo-β-lactamases, but very often the function has not been proven. The protein HVO_2763 from Haloferax volcanii is such a potential metallo-β-lactamase. HVO_2763 has sequence similarity to the metallo-β-lactamase tRNase Z, a tRNA 3′ processing endonuclease. Here, we report the characterisation of this metallo-β-lactamase HVO_2763 in the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii. Using different in vitro assays with the recombinant HVO_2763, we could show that the protein does not have tRNA 3′ processing or exonuclease activity. According to transcriptome analyses of the HVO_2763 deletion strain, expression of proteins involved in membrane transport is downregulated in the mutant. Therefore, HVO_2763 might be involved directly or indirectly in membrane transport.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-012-0433-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00792-012-0433-4
PMCID: PMC3296008  PMID: 22350204
Metallo-β-lactamase; tRNase Z; Haloferax volcanii; PhnP; HVO_2763
10.  Drosophila RNase Z processes mitochondrial and nuclear pre-tRNA 3′ ends in vivo 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(1):255-262.
Although correct tRNA 3′ ends are crucial for protein biosynthesis, generation of mature tRNA 3′ ends in eukaryotes is poorly understood and has so far only been investigated in vitro. We report here for the first time that eukaryotic tRNA 3′ end maturation is catalysed by the endonuclease RNase Z in vivo. Silencing of the JhI-1 gene (RNase Z homolog) in vivo with RNAi in Drosophila S2 cultured cells causes accumulation of nuclear and mitochondrial pre-tRNAs, suggesting that JhI-1 encodes both forms of the tRNA 3′ endonuclease RNase Z, and establishing its biological role in endonucleolytic tRNA 3′ end processing. In addition our data show that in vivo 5′ processing of nuclear and mitochondrial pre-tRNAs occurs before 3′ processing.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkh182
PMCID: PMC373292  PMID: 14715923

Results 1-10 (10)