How does a non-coding RNA evolve in cells? To address this question experimentally we evolved a trans-splicing variant of the group I intron ribozyme from Tetrahymena over 21 cycles of evolution in E.coli cells. Sequence variation was introduced during the evolution by mutagenic and recombinative PCR, and increasingly active ribozymes were selected by their repair of an mRNA mediating antibiotic resistance. The most efficient ribozyme contained four clustered mutations that were necessary and sufficient for maximum activity in cells. Surprisingly, these mutations did not increase the trans-splicing activity of the ribozyme. Instead, they appear to have recruited a cellular protein, the transcription termination factor Rho, and facilitated more efficient translation of the ribozyme’s trans-splicing product. In addition, these mutations affected the expression of several other, unrelated genes. These results suggest that during RNA evolution in cells, four mutations can be sufficient to evolve new protein interactions, and four mutations in an RNA molecule can generate a large effect on gene regulation in the cell.
In Archaea, the proteins involved in the genetic information processing pathways, including DNA replication, transcription, and translation, share strong similarities with those of eukaryotes. Characterizations of components of the eukaryotic-type replication machinery complex provided many interesting insights into DNA replication in both domains. In contrast, DNA repair processes of hyperthermophilic archaea are less well understood and very little is known about the intertwining between DNA synthesis, repair and recombination pathways. The development of genetic system in hyperthermophilic archaea is still at a modest stage hampering the use of complementary approaches of reverse genetics and biochemistry to elucidate the function of new candidate DNA repair gene. To gain insights into genomic maintenance processes in hyperthermophilic archaea, a protein-interaction network centred on informational processes of Pyrococcus abyssi was generated by affinity purification coupled with mass spectrometry. The network consists of 132 interactions linking 87 proteins. These interactions give insights into the connections of DNA replication with recombination and repair, leading to the discovery of new archaeal components and of associations between eucaryotic homologs. Although this approach did not allow us to clearly delineate new DNA pathways, it provided numerous clues towards the function of new molecular complexes with the potential to better understand genomic maintenance processes in hyperthermophilic archaea. Among others, we found new potential partners of the replication clamp and demonstrated that the single strand DNA binding protein, Replication Protein A, enhances the transcription rate, in vitro, of RNA polymerase. This interaction map provides a valuable tool to explore new aspects of genome integrity in Archaea and also potentially in Eucaryotes.
The prokaryotic adaptive immune system is based on the incorporation of genome fragments of invading viral genetic elements into clusters of regulatory interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs). The CRISPR loci are transcribed and processed into crRNAs, which are then used to target the invading nucleic acid for degradation. The large family of CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins mediates this interference response. We have characterized Methanopyrus kandleri Csm3, a protein of the type III-A CRISPR-Cas complex. The 2.4 Å resolution crystal structure shows an elaborate four-domain fold organized around a core RRM-like domain. The overall architecture highlights the structural homology to Cas7, the Cas protein that forms the backbone of type I interference complexes. Csm3 binds unstructured RNAs in a sequence non-specific manner, suggesting that it interacts with the variable spacer sequence of the crRNA. The structural and biochemical data provide insights into the similarities and differences in this group of Cas proteins.
RAMP; RRM domain; ferredoxin domain; Cas7; adaptive immunity
The discovery of biological concepts can often provide a framework for the development of novel molecular tools, which can help us to further understand and manipulate life. One recent example is the elucidation of the prokaryotic adaptive immune system, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) that protects bacteria and archaea against viruses or conjugative plasmids. The immunity is based on small RNA molecules that are incorporated into versatile multi-domain proteins or protein complexes and specifically target viral nucleic acids via base complementarity. CRISPR/Cas interference machines are utilized to develop novel genome editing tools for different organisms. Here, we will review the latest progress in the elucidation and application of prokaryotic CRISPR/Cas systems and discuss possible future approaches to exploit the potential of these interference machineries.
CRISPR; crRNA; Cas9; Cascade; interference; genome editing; RGEN; TALEN; ZNF
The bacterial small heat shock protein IbpA protects client proteins from aggregation. Due to redundancy in the cellular chaperone network, deletion of the ibpA gene often leads to only a mild or no phenotypic defect. In this study, we show that a Pseudomonas putida ibpA deletion mutant has a severe growth defect under heat stress conditions and reduced survival during recovery revealing a critical role of IbpA in heat tolerance. Transcription of the ibpA gene depends on the alternative heat shock sigma factor σ32. Production of IbpA protein only at heat shock temperatures suggested additional translational control. We conducted a comprehensive structural and functional analysis of the 5′ untranslated regions of the ibpA genes from P. putida and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Both contain a ROSE-type RNA thermometer that is substantially shorter and simpler than previously reported ROSE elements. Comprised of two hairpin structures only, they inhibit translation at low temperature and permit translation initiation after a temperature upshift. Both elements regulate reporter gene expression in Escherichia coli and ribosome binding in vitro in a temperature-dependent manner. Structure probing revealed local melting of the second hairpin whereas the first hairpin remained unaffected. High sequence and structure conservation of pseudomonal ibpA untranslated regions and their ability to confer thermoregulation in vivo suggest that short ROSE-like thermometers are commonly used to control IbpA synthesis in Pseudomonas species.
Bacterial tRNA-guanine transglycosylase (Tgt) catalyses the exchange of the genetically encoded guanine at the wobble position of tRNAsHis,Tyr,Asp,Asn by the premodified base preQ1, which is further converted to queuine at the tRNA level. As eucaryotes are not able to synthesise queuine de novo but acquire it through their diet, eucaryotic Tgt directly inserts the hypermodified base into the wobble position of the tRNAs mentioned above. Bacterial Tgt is required for the efficient pathogenicity of Shigella sp, the causative agent of bacillary dysentery and, hence, it constitutes a putative target for the rational design of anti-Shigellosis compounds. Since mammalian Tgt is known to be indirectly essential to the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine, it is necessary to create substances which only inhibit bacterial but not eucaryotic Tgt. Therefore, it seems of utmost importance to study selectivity-determining features within both types of proteins. Homology models of Caenorhabditis elegans Tgt and human Tgt suggest that the replacement of Cys158 and Val233 in bacterial Tgt (Zymomonas mobilis Tgt numbering) by valine and accordingly glycine in eucaryotic Tgt largely accounts for the different substrate specificities. In the present study we have created mutated variants of Z. mobilis Tgt in order to investigate the impact of a Cys158Val and a Val233Gly exchange on catalytic activity and substrate specificity. Using enzyme kinetics and X-ray crystallography, we gained evidence that the Cys158Val mutation reduces the affinity to preQ1 while leaving the affinity to guanine unaffected. The Val233Gly exchange leads to an enlarged substrate binding pocket, that is necessary to accommodate queuine in a conformation compatible with the intermediately covalently bound tRNA molecule. Contrary to our expectations, we found that a priori queuine is recognised by the binding pocket of bacterial Tgt without, however, being used as a substrate.
The methanogenic archaeon Methanopyrus kandleri grows near the upper temperature limit for life. Genome analyses revealed strategies to adapt to these harsh conditions and elucidated a unique transfer RNA (tRNA) C-to-U editing mechanism at base 8 for 30 different tRNA species. Here, RNA-Seq deep sequencing methodology was combined with computational analyses to characterize the small RNome of this hyperthermophilic organism and to obtain insights into the RNA metabolism at extreme temperatures. A large number of 132 small RNAs were identified that guide RNA modifications, which are expected to stabilize structured RNA molecules. The C/D box guide RNAs were shown to exist as circular RNA molecules. In addition, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats RNA processing and potential regulatory RNAs were identified. Finally, the identification of tRNA precursors before and after the unique C8-to-U8 editing activity enabled the determination of the order of tRNA processing events with termini truncation preceding intron removal. This order of tRNA maturation follows the compartmentalized tRNA processing order found in Eukaryotes and suggests its conservation during evolution.
Systematic studies of nonsense and sense suppression of the original and three derivative Methanosarcina mazei PylRS-tRNAPyl pairs and cross recognition between nonsense codons and various tRNAPyl anticodons in the Escherichia coli BL21(DE3) cell strain are reported. is orthogonal in E. coli and able to induce strong amber suppression when it is co-expressed with pyrrolysyl-tRNA synthetase (PylRS) and charged with a PylRS substrate, Nε-tert-butoxycarbonyl-l-lysine (BocK). Similar to, is also orthogonal in E. coli and can be coupled with PylRS to genetically incorporate BocK at an ochre mutation site. Although is expected to recognize a UAG codon based on the wobble hypothesis, the PylRS- pair does not give rise to amber suppression that surpasses the basal amber suppression level in E. coli. E. coli itself displays a relatively high opal suppression level and tryptophan (Trp) is incorporated at an opal mutation site. Although the PylRS- pair can be used to encode BocK at an opal codon, the pair fails to suppress the incorporation of Trp at the same site. fails to deliver BocK at an AGG codon when co-expressed with PylRS in E. coli.
In Escherichia coli the RNA chaperone Hfq is involved in riboregulation by assisting base-pairing between small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) and mRNA targets. Several structural and biochemical studies revealed RNA binding sites on either surface of the donut shaped Hfq-hexamer. Whereas sRNAs are believed to contact preferentially the YKH motifs present on the proximal site, poly(A)15 and ADP were shown to bind to tripartite binding motifs (ARE) circularly positioned on the distal site. Hfq has been reported to bind and to hydrolyze ATP. Here, we present the crystal structure of a C-terminally truncated variant of E. coli Hfq (Hfq65) in complex with ATP, showing that it binds to the distal R-sites. In addition, we revisited the reported ATPase activity of full length Hfq purified to homogeneity. At variance with previous reports, no ATPase activity was observed for Hfq. In addition, FRET assays neither indicated an impact of ATP on annealing of two model oligoribonucleotides nor did the presence of ATP induce strand displacement. Moreover, ATP did not lead to destabilization of binary and ternary Hfq-RNA complexes, unless a vast stoichiometric excess of ATP was used. Taken together, these studies strongly suggest that ATP is dispensable for and does not interfere with Hfq-mediated RNA transactions.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) elements and cas (CRISPR-associated) genes are widespread in Bacteria and Archaea. The CRISPR/Cas system operates as a defense mechanism against mobile genetic elements (i.e., viruses or plasmids). Here, we investigate seven CRISPR loci in the genome of the crenarchaeon Thermoproteus tenax that include spacers with significant similarity not only to archaeal viruses but also to T. tenax genes. The analysis of CRISPR RNA (crRNA) transcription reveals transcripts of a length between 50 and 130 nucleotides, demonstrating the processing of larger crRNA precursors. The organization of identified cas genes resembles CRISPR/Cas subtype I-A, and the core cas genes are shown to be arranged on two polycistronic transcripts: cascis (cas4, cas1/2, and csa1) and cascade (csa5, cas7, cas5a, cas3, cas3′, and cas8a2). Changes in the environmental parameters such as UV-light exposure or high ionic strength modulate cas gene transcription. Two reconstitution protocols were established for the production of two discrete multipartite Cas protein complexes that correspond to their operonic gene arrangement. These data provide insights into the specialized mechanisms of an archaeal CRISPR/Cas system and allow selective functional analyses of Cas protein complexes in the future.
The interaction of viruses and their prokaryotic hosts shaped the evolution of bacterial and archaeal life. Prokaryotes developed several strategies to evade viral attacks that include restriction modification, abortive infection and CRISPR/Cas systems. These adaptive immune systems found in many Bacteria and most Archaea consist of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) sequences and a number of CRISPR associated (Cas) genes (Fig. 1)1-3. Different sets of Cas proteins and repeats define at least three major divergent types of CRISPR/Cas systems 4. The universal proteins Cas1 and Cas2 are proposed to be involved in the uptake of viral DNA that will generate a new spacer element between two repeats at the 5' terminus of an extending CRISPR cluster 5. The entire cluster is transcribed into a precursor-crRNA containing all spacer and repeat sequences and is subsequently processed by an enzyme of the diverse Cas6 family into smaller crRNAs 6-8. These crRNAs consist of the spacer sequence flanked by a 5' terminal (8 nucleotides) and a 3' terminal tag derived from the repeat sequence 9. A repeated infection of the virus can now be blocked as the new crRNA will be directed by a Cas protein complex (Cascade) to the viral DNA and identify it as such via base complementarity10. Finally, for CRISPR/Cas type 1 systems, the nuclease Cas3 will destroy the detected invader DNA 11,12 .
These processes define CRISPR/Cas as an adaptive immune system of prokaryotes and opened a fascinating research field for the study of the involved Cas proteins. The function of many Cas proteins is still elusive and the causes for the apparent diversity of the CRISPR/Cas systems remain to be illuminated. Potential activities of most Cas proteins were predicted via detailed computational analyses. A major fraction of Cas proteins are either shown or proposed to function as endonucleases 4.
Here, we present methods to generate crRNAs and precursor-cRNAs for the study of Cas endoribonucleases. Different endonuclease assays require either short repeat sequences that can directly be synthesized as RNA oligonucleotides or longer crRNA and pre-crRNA sequences that are generated via in vitro T7 RNA polymerase run-off transcription. This methodology allows the incorporation of radioactive nucleotides for the generation of internally labeled endonuclease substrates and the creation of synthetic or mutant crRNAs. Cas6 endonuclease activity is utilized to mature pre-crRNAs into crRNAs with 5'-hydroxyl and a 2',3'-cyclic phosphate termini.
Molecular biology; Issue 67; CRISPR/Cas; endonuclease; in vitro transcription; crRNA; Cas6
The CRISPR arrays found in many bacteria and most archaea are transcribed into a long precursor RNA that is processed into small clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) RNAs (crRNAs). These RNA molecules can contain fragments of viral genomes and mediate, together with a set of CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins, the prokaryotic immunity against viral attacks. CRISPR/Cas systems are diverse and the Cas6 enzymes that process crRNAs vary between different subtypes. We analysed CRISPR/Cas subtype I-B and present the identification of novel Cas6 enzymes from the bacterial and archaeal model organisms Clostridium thermocellum and Methanococcus maripaludis C5. Methanococcus maripaludis Cas6b in vitro activity and specificity was determined. Two complementary catalytic histidine residues were identified. RNA-Seq analyses revealed in vivo crRNA processing sites, crRNA abundance and orientation of CRISPR transcription within these two organisms. Individual spacer sequences were identified with strong effects on transcription and processing patterns of a CRISPR cluster. These effects will need to be considered for the application of CRISPR clusters that are designed to produce synthetic crRNAs.
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.
Bacterial genomic islands are often flanked by tRNA genes, which act as sites for the integration of foreign DNA into the host chromosome. For example, Bacillus cereus ATCC14579 contains a pathogenicity island flanked by a predicted pseudo-tRNA, tRNAOther, which does not function in translation. Deletion of tRNAOther led to significant changes in cell wall morphology and antibiotic resistance and was accompanied by changes in the expression of numerous genes involved in oxidative stress responses, several of which contain significant complementarities to sequences surrounding tRNAOther. This suggested that tRNAOther might be expressed as part of a larger RNA, and RACE analysis subsequently confirmed the existence of several RNA species that significantly extend both the 3′ and 5′-ends of tRNAOther. tRNAOther expression levels were found to be responsive to changes in extracellular iron concentration, consistent with the presence of three putative ferric uptake regulator (Fur) binding sites in the 5′ leader region of one of these larger RNAs. Taken together with previous data, this study now suggests that tRNAOther may function by providing a tRNA-like structural element within a larger regulatory RNA. These findings illustrate that while integration of genomic islands often leaves tRNA genes intact and functional, in other instances inactivation may generate tRNA-like elements that are then recruited to other functions in the cell.
The minimal genome of the tiny, hyperthermophilic archaeon Nanoarchaeum equitans contains several fragmented genes and revealed unusual RNA processing pathways. These include the maturation of tRNA molecules via the trans-splicing of tRNA halves and genomic rearrangements to compensate for the absence of RNase P.
Here, the RNA processing events in the N. equitans cell are analyzed using RNA-Seq deep sequencing methodology. All tRNA half precursor and tRNA termini were determined and support the tRNA trans-splicing model. The processing of CRISPR RNAs from two CRISPR clusters was verified. Twenty-seven C/D box small RNAs (sRNAs) and a H/ACA box sRNA were identified. The C/D box sRNAs were found to flank split genes, to form dicistronic tRNA-sRNA precursors and to be encoded within the tRNAMet intron.
The presented data provide an overview of the production and usage of small RNAs in a cell that has to survive with a highly reduced genome. N. equitans lost many essential metabolic pathways but maintains highly active CRISPR/Cas and rRNA modification systems that appear to play an important role in genome fragmentation.
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.
sRNA; Lsm; Hfq; Archaea; CRISPR; crRNA
Posttranscriptional modifications are critical for structure and function of tRNAs. Wybutosine (yW) and its derivatives are hyper-modified guanosines found at the position 37 of eukaryotic and archaeal tRNAPhe. TYW2 is an enzyme that catalyzes α-amino-α-carboxypropyl transfer activity at the third step of yW biogenesis. Using complementation of a ΔTYW2 strain, we demonstrate here that human TYW2 (hTYW2) is active in yeast and can synthesize the yW of yeast tRNAPhe. Structure-guided analysis identified several conserved residues in hTYW2 that interact with S-adenosyl-methionine (AdoMet), and mutation studies revealed that K225 and E265 are critical residues for the enzymatic activity. We previously reported that the human TYW2 is overexpressed in breast cancer. However, no difference in the tRNAPhe modification status was observed in either normal mouse tissue or a mouse tumor model that overexpresses Tyw2, indicating that hTYW2 may have a role in tumorigenesis unrelated to yW biogenesis.
Aminoacyl tRNA synthetases play a central role in protein synthesis by charging tRNAs with amino acids. Yeast mitochondrial lysyl tRNA synthetase (Msk1), in addition to the aminoacylation of mitochondrial tRNA, also functions as a chaperone to facilitate the import of cytosolic lysyl tRNA. In this report, we show that human mitochondrial Kars (lysyl tRNA synthetase) can complement the growth defect associated with the loss of yeast Msk1 and can additionally facilitate the in vitro import of tRNA into mitochondria. Surprisingly, the import of lysyl tRNA can occur independent of Msk1 in vivo. This suggests that an alternative mechanism is present for the import of lysyl tRNA in yeast.
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are a large family of housekeeping enzymes that are pivotal in protein translation and other vital cellular processes. Saccharomyces cerevisiae possesses two distinct nuclear glycyl-tRNA synthetase (GlyRS) genes, GRS1 and GRS2. GRS1 encodes both cytoplasmic and mitochondrial activities, while GRS2 is essentially silent and dispensable under normal conditions. We herein present evidence that expression of GRS2 was drastically induced upon heat shock, ethanol or hydrogen peroxide addition, and high pH, while expression of GRS1 was somewhat repressed under those conditions. In addition, GlyRS2 (the enzyme encoded by GRS2) had a higher protein stability and a lower KM value for yeast tRNAGly under heat shock conditions than under normal conditions. Moreover, GRS2 rescued the growth defect of a GRS1 knockout strain when highly expressed by a strong promoter at 37°C, but not at the optimal temperature of 30°C. These results suggest that GRS2 is actually an inducible gene that may function to rescue the activity of GRS1 under stress conditions.
Understanding the mechanistic basis of the disruption of tRNA genes, as manifested in the intron-containing and split tRNAs found in Archaea, will provide considerable insight into the evolution of the tRNA molecule. However, the evolutionary processes underlying these disruptions have not yet been identified. Previously, a composite genome of the deep-branching archaeon Caldiarchaeum subterraneum was reconstructed from a community genomic library prepared from a C. subterraneum–dominated microbial mat. Here, exploration of tRNA genes from the library reveals that there are at least three types of heterogeneity at the tRNAThr(GGU) gene locus in the Caldiarchaeum population. All three involve intronic gain and splitting of the tRNA gene. Of two fosmid clones found that encode tRNAThr(GGU), one (tRNAThr-I) contains a single intron, whereas another (tRNAThr-II) contains two introns. Notably, in the clone possessing tRNAThr-II, a 5′ fragment of the tRNAThr-I (tRNAThr-F) gene was observed 1.8-kb upstream of tRNAThr-II. The composite genome contains both tRNAThr-II and tRNAThr-F, although the loci are >500 kb apart. Given that the 1.8-kb sequence flanked by tRNAThr-F and tRNAThr-II is predicted to encode a DNA recombinase and occurs in six regions of the composite genome, it may be a transposable element. Furthermore, its dinucleotide composition is most similar to that of the pNOB8-type plasmid, which is known to integrate into archaeal tRNA genes. Based on these results, we propose that the gain of the tRNA intron and the scattering of the tRNA fragment occurred within a short time frame via the integration and recombination of a mobile genetic element.
Topoisomerases play a fundamental role in genome stability, DNA replication and repair. As a result, topoisomerases have served as therapeutic targets of interest in Eukarya and Bacteria, two of the three domains of life. Since members of Archaea, the third domain of life, have not been implicated in any diseased state to-date, there is a paucity of data on archaeal topoisomerases. Here we report Methanosarcina acetivorans TopoIIIα (MacTopoIIIα) as the first biochemically characterized mesophilic archaeal topoisomerase. Maximal activity for MacTopoIIIα was elicited at 30–35°C and 100 mM NaCl. As little as 10 fmol of the enzyme initiated DNA relaxation, and NaCl concentrations above 250 mM inhibited this activity. The present study also provides the first evidence that a type IA Topoisomerase has activity in the presence of all divalent cations tested (Mg2+, Ca2+, Sr2+, Ba2+, Mn2+, Fe2+, Co2+, Ni2+, Cu2+, Zn2+ and Cd2+). Activity profiles were, however, specific to each metal. Known type I (ssDNA and camptothecin) and type II (etoposide, novobiocin and nalidixic acid) inhibitors with different mechanisms of action were used to demonstrate that MacTopoIIIα is a type IA topoisomerase. Alignment of MacTopoIIIα with characterized topoisomerases identified Y317 as the putative catalytic residue, and a Y317F mutation ablated DNA relaxation activity, demonstrating that Y317 is essential for catalysis. As the role of Domain V (C-terminal domain) is unclear, MacTopoIIIα was aligned with the canonical E. coli TopoI 67 kDa fragment in order to construct an N-terminal (1–586) and a C-terminal (587–752) fragment for analysis. Activity could neither be elicited from the fragments individually nor reconstituted from a mixture of the fragments, suggesting that native folding is impaired when the two fragments are expressed separately. Evidence that each of the split domains plays a role in Zn2+ binding of the enzyme is also provided.
Hydrogen gas is an attractive alternative fuel as it is carbon neutral and has higher energy content per unit mass than fossil fuels. The biological enzyme responsible for utilizing molecular hydrogen is hydrogenase, a heteromeric metalloenzyme requiring a complex maturation process to assemble its O2-sensitive dinuclear-catalytic site containing nickel and iron atoms. To facilitate their utility in applied processes, it is essential that tools are available to engineer hydrogenases to tailor catalytic activity and electron carrier specificity, and decrease oxygen sensitivity using standard molecular biology techniques. As a model system we are using hydrogen-producing Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally at 100°C. We have taken advantage of a recently developed genetic system that allows markerless chromosomal integrations via homologous recombination. We have combined a new gene marker system with a highly-expressed constitutive promoter to enable high-level homologous expression of an engineered form of the cytoplasmic NADP-dependent hydrogenase (SHI) of P. furiosus. In a step towards obtaining ‘minimal’ hydrogenases, we have successfully produced the heterodimeric form of SHI that contains only two of the four subunits found in the native heterotetrameric enzyme. The heterodimeric form is highly active (150 units mg−1 in H2 production using the artificial electron donor methyl viologen) and thermostable (t1/2 ∼0.5 hour at 90°C). Moreover, the heterodimer does not use NADPH and instead can directly utilize reductant supplied by pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase from P. furiosus. The SHI heterodimer and POR therefore represent a two-enzyme system that oxidizes pyruvate and produces H2 in vitro without the need for an intermediate electron carrier.
The RNA world hypothesis states that the early evolution of life went through a stage in which RNA served both as genome and as catalyst. The central catalyst in an RNA world organism would have been a ribozyme that catalyzed RNA polymerization to facilitate self-replication. An RNA polymerase ribozyme was developed previously in the lab but it is not efficient enough for self-replication. The factor that limits its polymerization efficiency is its weak sequence-independent binding of the primer/template substrate. Here we tested whether RNA polymerization could be improved by a cationic arginine cofactor, to improve the interaction with the substrate. In an RNA world, amino acid-nucleic acid conjugates could have facilitated the emergence of the translation apparatus and the transition to an RNP world. We chose the amino acid arginine for our study because this is the amino acid most adept to interact with RNA. An arginine cofactor was positioned at ten different sites on the ribozyme, using conjugates of arginine with short DNA or RNA oligonucleotides. However, polymerization efficiency was not increased in any of the ten positions. In five of the ten positions the arginine reduced or modulated polymerization efficiency, which gives insight into the substrate-binding site on the ribozyme. These results suggest that the existing polymerase ribozyme is not well suited to using an arginine cofactor.
The identity of the histidine specific transfer RNA (tRNAHis) is largely determined by a unique guanosine residue at position −1. In eukaryotes and archaea, the tRNAHis guanylyltransferase (Thg1) catalyzes 3'-5' addition of G to the 5'-terminus of tRNAHis. Here, we show that Thg1 also occurs in bacteria. We demonstrate in vitro Thg1 activity for recombinant enzymes from the two bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis and Myxococcus xanthus and provide a closer investigation of several archaeal Thg1. The reaction mechanism of prokaryotic Thg1 differs from eukaryotic enzymes, as it does not require ATP. Complementation of a yeast thg1 knockout strain with bacterial Thg1 verified in vivo activity and suggests a relaxed recognition of the discriminator base in bacteria.
tRNA-His guanylyltransferase; Thg1; tRNA processing; histidyl-tRNA synthetase; RNase P
Nanoarchaeum equitans, the only cultured representative of the Nanoarchaeota, is dependent on direct physical contact with its host, the hyperthermophile Ignicoccus hospitalis. The molecular mechanisms that enable this relationship are unknown. Using whole-cell proteomics, differences in the relative abundance of >75% of predicted protein-coding genes from both Archaea were measured to identify the specific response of I. hospitalis to the presence of N. equitans on its surface. A purified N. equitans sample was also analyzed for evidence of interspecies protein transfer. The depth of cellular proteome coverage achieved here is amongst the highest reported for any organism. Based on changes in the proteome under the specific conditions of this study, I. hospitalis reacts to N. equitans by curtailing genetic information processing (replication, transcription) in lieu of intensifying its energetic, protein processing and cellular membrane functions. We found no evidence of significant Ignicoccus biosynthetic enzymes being transported to N. equitans. These results suggest that, under laboratory conditions, N. equitans diverts some of its host's metabolism and cell cycle control to compensate for its own metabolic shortcomings, thus appearing to be entirely dependent on small, transferable metabolites and energetic precursors from I. hospitalis.