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1.  S-layers at second glance? Altiarchaeal grappling hooks (hami) resemble archaeal S-layer proteins in structure and sequence 
The uncultivated “Candidatus Altiarchaeum hamiconexum” (formerly known as SM1 Euryarchaeon) carries highly specialized nano-grappling hooks (“hami”) on its cell surface. Until now little is known about the major protein forming these structured fibrous cell surface appendages, the genes involved or membrane anchoring of these filaments. These aspects were analyzed in depth in this study using environmental transcriptomics combined with imaging methods. Since a laboratory culture of this archaeon is not yet available, natural biofilm samples with high Ca. A. hamiconexum abundance were used for the entire analyses. The filamentous surface appendages spanned both membranes of the cell, which are composed of glycosyl-archaeol. The hami consisted of multiple copies of the same protein, the corresponding gene of which was identified via metagenome-mapped transcriptome analysis. The hamus subunit proteins, which are likely to self-assemble due to their predicted beta sheet topology, revealed no similiarity to known microbial flagella-, archaella-, fimbriae- or pili-proteins, but a high similarity to known S-layer proteins of the archaeal domain at their N-terminal region (44–47% identity). Our results provide new insights into the structure of the unique hami and their major protein and indicate their divergent evolution with S-layer proteins.
PMCID: PMC4460559  PMID: 26106369
archaea; S-layers; archaeal cell surface appendages; hami; nano-grappling hooks; double-membrane; environmental transcriptomics; electron cryo-tomography
2.  Functional Comparison of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell- and Blood-Derived GPIIbIIIa Deficient Platelets 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0115978.
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) represent a versatile tool to model genetic diseases and are a potential source for cell transfusion therapies. However, it remains elusive to which extent patient-specific hiPSC-derived cells functionally resemble their native counterparts. Here, we generated a hiPSC model of the primary platelet disease Glanzmann thrombasthenia (GT), characterized by dysfunction of the integrin receptor GPIIbIIIa, and compared side-by-side healthy and diseased hiPSC-derived platelets with peripheral blood platelets. Both GT-hiPSC-derived platelets and their peripheral blood equivalents showed absence of membrane expression of GPIIbIIIa, a reduction of PAC-1 binding, surface spreading and adherence to fibrinogen. We demonstrated that GT-hiPSC-derived platelets recapitulate molecular and functional aspects of the disease and show comparable behavior to their native counterparts encouraging the further use of hiPSC-based disease models as well as the transition towards a clinical application.
PMCID: PMC4301811  PMID: 25607928
3.  Dissecting a neuron network: FIB-SEM-based 3D-reconstruction of the visual neuropils in the sea spider Achelia langi (Dohrn, 1881) (Pycnogonida) 
BMC Biology  2014;12:59.
The research field of connectomics arose just recently with the development of new three-dimensional-electron microscopy (EM) techniques and increasing computing power. So far, only a few model species (for example, mouse, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster) have been studied using this approach. Here, we present a first attempt to expand this circle to include pycnogonids, which hold a key position for the understanding of arthropod evolution. The visual neuropils in Achelia langi are studied using a focused ion beam-scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) crossbeam-workstation, and a three-dimensional serial reconstruction of the connectome is presented.
The two eyes of each hemisphere of the sea spider’s eye tubercle are connected to a first and a second visual neuropil. The first visual neuropil is subdivided in two hemineuropils, each responsible for one eye and stratified into three layers. Six different neuron types postsynaptic to the retinula (R-cells) axons are characterized by their morphology: five types of descending unipolar neurons and one type of ascending neurons. These cell types are also identified by Golgi impregnations. Mapping of all identifiable chemical synapses indicates that the descending unipolar neurons are postsynaptic to the R-cells and, hence, are second-order neurons. The ascending neurons are predominantly presynaptic and sometimes postsynaptic to the R-cells and may play a feedback role.
Comparing these results with the compound eye visual system of crustaceans and insects – the only arthropod visual system studied so far in such detail – we found striking similarities in the morphology and synaptic organization of the different neuron types. Hence, the visual system of pycnogonids shows features of both chelicerate median and mandibulate lateral eyes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-014-0059-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4159573  PMID: 25285383
Median eyes; Lateral eyes; Visual system; Connectome; Arthropoda; Chelicerata; Pycnogonida
4.  Grappling archaea: ultrastructural analyses of an uncultivated, cold-loving archaeon, and its biofilm 
Similarly to Bacteria, Archaea are microorganisms that interact with their surrounding environment in a versatile manner. To date, interactions based on cellular structure and surface appendages have mainly been documented using model systems of cultivable archaea under laboratory conditions. Here, we report on the microbial interactions and ultrastructural features of the uncultivated SM1 Euryarchaeon, which is highly dominant in its biotope. Therefore, biofilm samples taken from the Sippenauer Moor, Germany, were investigated via transmission electron microscopy (TEM; negative staining, thin-sectioning) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in order to elucidate the fine structures of the microbial cells and the biofilm itself. The biofilm consisted of small archaeal cocci (0.6 μm diameter), arranged in a regular pattern (1.0–2.0 μm distance from cell to cell), whereas each archaeon was connected to 6 other archaea on average. Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) were limited to the close vicinity of the archaeal cells, and specific cell surface appendages (hami, Moissl et al., 2005) protruded beyond the EPS matrix enabling microbial interaction by cell-cell contacts among the archaea and between archaea and bacteria. All analyzed hami revealed their previously described architecture of nano-grappling hooks and barb-wire basal structures. Considering the archaeal cell walls, the SM1 Euryarchaea exhibited a double-membrane, which has rarely been reported for members of this phylogenetic domain. Based on these findings, the current generalized picture on archaeal cell walls needs to be revisited, as archaeal cell structures are more complex and sophisticated than previously assumed, particularly when looking into the uncultivated majority.
PMCID: PMC4122167  PMID: 25140167
archaea; biofilm; ultrastructure; hami; EPS; SEM; TEM; microbial interaction
5.  Coupling Genetic and Chemical Microbiome Profiling Reveals Heterogeneity of Archaeome and Bacteriome in Subsurface Biofilms That Are Dominated by the Same Archaeal Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99801.
Earth harbors an enormous portion of subsurface microbial life, whose microbiome flux across geographical locations remains mainly unexplored due to difficult access to samples. Here, we investigated the microbiome relatedness of subsurface biofilms of two sulfidic springs in southeast Germany that have similar physical and chemical parameters and are fed by one deep groundwater current. Due to their unique hydrogeological setting these springs provide accessible windows to subsurface biofilms dominated by the same uncultivated archaeal species, called SM1 Euryarchaeon. Comparative analysis of infrared imaging spectra demonstrated great variations in archaeal membrane composition between biofilms of the two springs, suggesting different SM1 euryarchaeal strains of the same species at both aquifer outlets. This strain variation was supported by ultrastructural and metagenomic analyses of the archaeal biofilms, which included intergenic spacer region sequencing of the rRNA gene operon. At 16S rRNA gene level, PhyloChip G3 DNA microarray detected similar biofilm communities for archaea, but site-specific communities for bacteria. Both biofilms showed an enrichment of different deltaproteobacterial operational taxonomic units, whose families were, however, congruent as were their lipid spectra. Consequently, the function of the major proportion of the bacteriome appeared to be conserved across the geographic locations studied, which was confirmed by dsrB-directed quantitative PCR. Consequently, microbiome differences of these subsurface biofilms exist at subtle nuances for archaea (strain level variation) and at higher taxonomic levels for predominant bacteria without a substantial perturbation in bacteriome function. The results of this communication provide deep insight into the dynamics of subsurface microbial life and warrant its future investigation with regard to metabolic and genomic analyses.
PMCID: PMC4074051  PMID: 24971452
6.  3-D analysis of dictyosomes and multivesicular bodies in the green alga Micrasterias denticulata by FIB/SEM tomography☆ 
Journal of Structural Biology  2013;184(2):203-211.
In the present study we employ FIB/SEM tomography for analyzing 3-D architecture of dictyosomes and formation of multivesicular bodies (MVB) in high pressure frozen and cryo-substituted interphase cells of the green algal model system Micrasterias denticulata. The ability of FIB/SEM of milling very thin ‘slices’ (5–10 nm), viewing the block face and of capturing cytoplasmic volumes of several hundred μm3 provides new insight into the close spatial connection of the ER–Golgi machinery in an algal cell particularly in z-direction, complementary to informations obtained by TEM serial sectioning or electron tomography.
Our FIB/SEM series and 3-D reconstructions show that interphase dictyosomes of Micrasterias are not only closely associated to an ER system at their cis-side which is common in various plant cells, but are surrounded by a huge “trans-ER” sheath leading to an almost complete enwrapping of dictyosomes by the ER. This is particularly interesting as the presence of a trans-dictyosomal ER system is well known from mammalian secretory cells but not from cells of higher plants to which the alga Micrasterias is closely related. In contrast to findings in plant storage tissue indicating that MVBs originate from the trans-Golgi network or its derivatives our investigations show that MVBs in Micrasterias are in direct spatial contact with both, trans-Golgi cisternae and the trans-ER sheath which provides evidence that both endomembrane compartments are involved in their formation.
PMCID: PMC3899002  PMID: 24135121
FIB/SEM tomography; Dictyosomes; Multivesicular bodies; ER; Micrasterias denticulata; TEM
7.  Properties of Halococcus salifodinae, an Isolate from Permian Rock Salt Deposits, Compared with Halococci from Surface Waters 
Life : Open Access Journal  2013;3(1):244-259.
Halococcus salifodinae BIpT DSM 8989T, an extremely halophilic archaeal isolate from an Austrian salt deposit (Bad Ischl), whose origin was dated to the Permian period, was described in 1994. Subsequently, several strains of the species have been isolated, some from similar but geographically separated salt deposits. Hcc. salifodinae may be regarded as one of the most ancient culturable species which existed already about 250 million years ago. Since its habitat probably did not change during this long period, its properties were presumably not subjected to the needs of mutational adaptation. Hcc. salifodinae and other isolates from ancient deposits would be suitable candidates for testing hypotheses on prokaryotic evolution, such as the molecular clock concept, or the net-like history of genome evolution. A comparison of available taxonomic characteristics from strains of Hcc. salifodinae and other Halococcus species, most of them originating from surface waters, is presented. The cell wall polymer of Hcc. salifodinae was examined and found to be a heteropolysaccharide, similar to that of Hcc. morrhuae. Polyhydroxyalkanoate granules were present in Hcc. salifodinae, suggesting a possible lateral gene transfer before Permian times.
PMCID: PMC4187196  PMID: 25371342
Halococcus species; Halococcus salifodinae; haloarchaea; Permian salt deposit; cell wall polymer; polyhydroxyalkanoate; prokaryotic evolution
8.  The major thylakoid protein kinases STN7 and STN8 revisited: effects of altered STN8 levels and regulatory specificities of the STN kinases 
Thylakoid phosphorylation is predominantly mediated by the protein kinases STN7 and STN8. While STN7 primarily catalyzes LHCII phosphorylation, which enables LHCII to migrate from photosystem (PS) II to PSI, STN8 mainly phosphorylates PSII core proteins. The reversible phosphorylation of PSII core proteins is thought to regulate the PSII repair cycle and PSII supercomplex stability, and play a role in modulating the folding of thylakoid membranes. Earlier studies clearly demonstrated a considerable substrate overlap between the two STN kinases, raising the possibility of a balanced interdependence between them at either the protein or activity level. Here, we show that such an interdependence of the STN kinases on protein level does not seem to exist as neither knock-out nor overexpression of STN7 or STN8 affects accumulation of the other. STN7 and STN8 are both shown to be integral thylakoid proteins that form part of molecular supercomplexes, but exhibit different spatial distributions and are subject to different modes of regulation. Evidence is presented for the existence of a second redox-sensitive motif in STN7, which seems to be targeted by thioredoxin f. Effects of altered STN8 levels on PSII core phosphorylation, supercomplex formation, photosynthetic performance and thylakoid ultrastructure were analyzed in Arabidopsis thaliana using STN8-overexpressing plants (oeSTN8). In general, oeSTN8 plants were less sensitive to intense light and exhibited changes in thylakoid ultrastructure, with grana stacks containing more layers and reduced amounts of PSII supercomplexes. Hence, we conclude that STN8 acts in an amount-dependent manner similar to what was shown for STN7 in previous studies. However, the modes of regulation of the STN kinases appear to differ significantly.
PMCID: PMC3801152  PMID: 24151498
chloroplast; protein phosphorylation; PSII supercomplexes; redox; STN kinases; thylakoid ultrastructure
9.  Stretching the Rules: Monocentric Chromosomes with Multiple Centromere Domains 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(6):e1002777.
The centromere is a functional chromosome domain that is essential for faithful chromosome segregation during cell division and that can be reliably identified by the presence of the centromere-specific histone H3 variant CenH3. In monocentric chromosomes, the centromere is characterized by a single CenH3-containing region within a morphologically distinct primary constriction. This region usually spans up to a few Mbp composed mainly of centromere-specific satellite DNA common to all chromosomes of a given species. In holocentric chromosomes, there is no primary constriction; the centromere is composed of many CenH3 loci distributed along the entire length of a chromosome. Using correlative fluorescence light microscopy and high-resolution electron microscopy, we show that pea (Pisum sativum) chromosomes exhibit remarkably long primary constrictions that contain 3–5 explicit CenH3-containing regions, a novelty in centromere organization. In addition, we estimate that the size of the chromosome segment delimited by two outermost domains varies between 69 Mbp and 107 Mbp, several factors larger than any known centromere length. These domains are almost entirely composed of repetitive DNA sequences belonging to 13 distinct families of satellite DNA and one family of centromeric retrotransposons, all of which are unevenly distributed among pea chromosomes. We present the centromeres of Pisum as novel “meta-polycentric” functional domains. Our results demonstrate that the organization and DNA composition of functional centromere domains can be far more complex than previously thought, do not require single repetitive elements, and do not require single centromere domains in order to segregate properly. Based on these findings, we propose Pisum as a useful model for investigation of centromere architecture and the still poorly understood role of repetitive DNA in centromere evolution, determination, and function.
Author Summary
During cell division, DNA packed in chromosomes must be perfectly distributed between daughter cells. Centromeres play a crucial role in this process. Current centromere biology maintains that stable chromosomes can be either monocentric, with one functional domain located at a single position, or polycentric, with multiple domains located along the entire chromosome. We found that pea chromosomes are different, exhibiting very large single centromeres containing multiple functional domains, thus representing a novel intermediate type of centromere. We demonstrate that all of the functional centromere domains in the pea are tightly associated with clusters of distinct satellite DNA families, indicating their role in centromere evolution. Our results support the idea that the tandem organization of repeating units, but not their primary sequences, is an important co-determinant of functional centromere domains.
PMCID: PMC3380829  PMID: 22737088
10.  A Virus-Like Particle-Based Epstein-Barr Virus Vaccine ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(24):13105-13113.
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is an ubiquitous human herpesvirus which can lead to infectious mononucleosis and different cancers. In immunocompromised individuals, this virus is a major cause for morbidity and mortality. Transplant patients who did not encounter EBV prior to immunosuppression frequently develop EBV-associated malignancies, but a prophylactic EBV vaccination might reduce this risk considerably. Virus-like particles (VLPs) mimic the structure of the parental virus but lack the viral genome. Therefore, VLPs are considered safe and efficient vaccine candidates. We engineered a dedicated producer cell line for EBV-derived VLPs. This cell line contains a genetically modified EBV genome which is devoid of all potential viral oncogenes but provides viral proteins essential for the assembly and release of VLPs via the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT). Human B cells readily take up EBV-based VLPs and present viral epitopes in association with HLA molecules to T cells. Consequently, EBV-based VLPs are highly immunogenic and elicit humoral and strong CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses in vitro and in a preclinical murine model in vivo. Our findings suggest that VLP formulations might be attractive candidates to develop a safe and effective polyvalent vaccine against EBV.
PMCID: PMC3233152  PMID: 21994444
11.  The Mode of Cell Wall Growth in Selected Archaea Is Similar to the General Mode of Cell Wall Growth in Bacteria as Revealed by Fluorescent Dye Analysis ▿ †  
The surfaces of 8 bacterial and 23 archaeal species, including many hyperthermophilic Archaea, could be stained using succinimidyl esters of fluorescent dyes. This allowed us for the first time to analyze the mode of cell wall growth in Archaea by subculturing stained cells. The data obtained show that incorporation of new cell wall material in Archaea follows the pattern observed for Bacteria: in the coccoid species Pyrococcus furiosus incorporation was in the region of septum formation while for the rod-shaped species Methanopyrus kandleri and Methanothermus sociabilis, a diffuse incorporation of cell wall material over the cell length was observed. Cell surface appendages like fimbriae/pili, fibers, or flagella were detectable by fluorescence staining only in a very few cases although their presence was proven by electron microscopy. Our data in addition prove that Alexa Fluor dyes can be used for in situ analyses at temperatures up to 100°C.
PMCID: PMC3067282  PMID: 21169435
12.  Identification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in Halococcus and other haloarchaeal species 
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.
PMCID: PMC2895300  PMID: 20437233
Polyhydroxybutyrate; Haloarchaea; Halococcus; Halobacterium; Haloalkaliphile
13.  The Iho670 Fibers of Ignicoccus hospitalis: a New Type of Archaeal Cell Surface Appendage ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(20):6465-6468.
Ignicoccus hospitalis forms many cell surface appendages, the Iho670 fibers (width, 14 nm; length, up to 20 μm), which constitute up to 5% of cellular protein. They are composed mainly of protein Iho670, possessing no homology to archaeal flagellins or fimbrins. Their existence as structures different from archaeal flagella or fimbriae have gone unnoticed up to now because they are very brittle.
PMCID: PMC2753025  PMID: 19684144
14.  A New Lineage of Halophilic, Wall-Less, Contractile Bacteria from a Brine-Filled Deep of the Red Sea▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(10):3580-3587.
A novel strictly anaerobic bacterium designated strain SSD-17BT was isolated from the hypersaline brine-sediment interface of the Shaban Deep, Red Sea. Cells were pleomorphic but usually consisted of a central coccoid body with one or two “tentacle-like” protrusions. These protrusions actively alternated between a straight, relaxed form and a contracted, corkscrew-like one. A peptidoglycan layer was not detected by electron microscopy. The organism forms “fried-egg”-like colonies on MM-X medium. The organism is strictly anaerobic and halophilic and has an optimum temperature for growth of about 30 to 37°C and an optimum pH of about 7. Nitrate and nitrite are reduced; lactate is a fermentation product. The fatty acid profile is dominated by straight saturated and unsaturated chain compounds. Menaquinone 4 is the major respiratory quinone. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated strain SSD-17BT represents a novel and distinct lineage within the radiation of the domain Bacteria. The branching position of strain SSD-17BT was equidistant to the taxa considered to be representative lineages of the phyla Firmicutes and Tenericutes (with its sole class Mollicutes). The phenotypic and phylogenetic data clearly show the distinctiveness of this unusual bacterium, and we therefore propose that strain SSD-17BT (= DSM 18853 = JCM 14575) represents a new genus and a new species, for which we recommend the name Haloplasma contractile gen. nov., sp. nov. We are also of the opinion that the organism represents a new order-level taxon, for which we propose the name Haloplasmatales.
PMCID: PMC2394993  PMID: 18326567
15.  Ultrastructural Characterization of the Prokaryotic Symbiosis in “Chlorochromatium aggregatum” ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(10):3721-3730.
The phototrophic consortium “Chlorochromatium aggregatum” currently represents the most highly developed interspecific association of bacteria and consists of green sulfur bacteria, so-called epibionts, surrounding a central, motile, chemotrophic bacterium. In order to identify subcellular structures characteristic of this symbiosis, consortia were studied by a combination of high-resolution analytical scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and three-dimensional reconstruction and image analyses. Epibionts are interconnected and to a lesser extent are also connected with the central bacterium, by electron-dense, hair-like filaments. In addition, numerous periplasmic tubules extend from the outer membrane of the central bacterium and are in direct contact with the outer membrane of the epibionts. In each epibiont cell, the attachment site to the central bacterium is characterized by the absence of chlorosomes and an additional 17-nm-thick layer (epibiont contact layer [ECL]) attached to the inner side of the cytoplasmic membrane. The ECL is only occasionally observed in pure cultures of the epibiont, where it occurs in about 10 to 20% of the free-living cells. A striking feature of the central bacterium is the presence of one or two hexagonally packed flat crystals (central bacterium crystal [CBC]) per cell. The CBC reaches 1 μm in length, is 35 nm thick, and consists of bilayers of subunits with a spacing of 9 nm. A detailed model for consortia is presented, summarizing our conclusions regarding (i) cohesion of the cells, (ii) common periplasmic space between the central bacterium and the epibiont, (iii) ECL as a symbiosis-specific structure, and (iv) formation of the interior paracrystalline structures, central bacterium membrane layer, and CBC.
PMCID: PMC2394997  PMID: 18344357
16.  The Major Magnetosome Proteins MamGFDC Are Not Essential for Magnetite Biomineralization in Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense but Regulate the Size of Magnetosome Crystals▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(1):377-386.
Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense and related magnetotactic bacteria form magnetosomes, which are membrane-enclosed organelles containing crystals of magnetite (Fe3O4) that cause the cells to orient in magnetic fields. The characteristic sizes, morphologies, and patterns of alignment of magnetite crystals are controlled by vesicles formed of the magnetosome membrane (MM), which contains a number of specific proteins whose precise roles in magnetosome formation have remained largely elusive. Here, we report on a functional analysis of the small hydrophobic MamGFDC proteins, which altogether account for nearly 35% of all proteins associated with the MM. Although their high levels of abundance and conservation among magnetotactic bacteria had suggested a major role in magnetosome formation, we found that the MamGFDC proteins are not essential for biomineralization, as the deletion of neither mamC, encoding the most abundant magnetosome protein, nor the entire mamGFDC operon abolished the formation of magnetite crystals. However, cells lacking mamGFDC produced crystals that were only 75% of the wild-type size and were less regular than wild-type crystals with respect to morphology and chain-like organization. The inhibition of crystal formation could not be eliminated by increased iron concentrations. The growth of mutant crystals apparently was not spatially constrained by the sizes of MM vesicles, as cells lacking mamGFDC formed vesicles with sizes and shapes nearly identical to those formed by wild-type cells. However, the formation of wild-type-size magnetite crystals could be gradually restored by in-trans complementation with one, two, and three genes of the mamGFDC operon, regardless of the combination, whereas the expression of all four genes resulted in crystals exceeding the wild-type size. Our data suggest that the MamGFDC proteins have partially redundant functions and, in a cumulative manner, control the growth of magnetite crystals by an as-yet-unknown mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2223754  PMID: 17965152
17.  Mutation of a single residue, β-glutamate-20, alters protein–lipid interactions of light harvesting complex II 
Molecular Microbiology  2007;67(1):63-77.
It is well established that assembly of the peripheral antenna complex, LH2, is required for proper photosynthetic membrane biogenesis in the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides. The underlying interactions are, as yet, not understood. Here we examined the relationship between the morphology of the photosynthetic membrane and the lipid–protein interactions at the LH2–lipid interface. The non-bilayer lipid, phosphatidylethanolamine, is shown to be highly enriched in the boundary lipid phase of LH2. Sequence alignments indicate a putative lipid binding site, which includes β-glutamate-20 and the adjacent carotenoid end group. Replacement of β-glutamate-20 with alanine results in significant reduction of phosphatidylethanolamine and concomitant raise in phosphatidylcholine in the boundary lipid phase of LH2 without altering the lipid composition of the bulk phase. The morphology of the LH2 housing membrane is, however, unaffected by the amino acid replacement. In contrast, simultaneous modification of glutamate-20 and exchange of the carotenoid sphaeroidenone with neurosporene results in significant enlargement of the vesicular membrane invaginations. These findings suggest that the LH2 complex, specifically β-glutamate-20 and the carotenoids' polar head group, contribute to the shaping of the photosynthetic membrane by specific interactions with surrounding lipid molecules.
PMCID: PMC2229836  PMID: 18034796
18.  Flagella of Pyrococcus furiosus: Multifunctional Organelles, Made for Swimming, Adhesion to Various Surfaces, and Cell-Cell Contacts†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(19):6915-6923.
Pyrococcus furiosus (“rushing fireball”) was named for the ability of this archaeal coccus to rapidly swim at its optimal growth temperature, around 100°C. Early electron microscopic studies identified up to 50 cell surface appendages originating from one pole of the coccus, which have been called flagella. We have analyzed these putative motility organelles and found them to be composed primarily (>95%) of a glycoprotein that is homologous to flagellins from other archaea. Using various electron microscopic techniques, we found that these flagella can aggregate into cable-like structures, forming cell-cell connections between ca. 5% of all cells during stationary growth phase. P. furiosus cells could adhere via their flagella to carbon-coated gold grids used for electron microscopic analyses, to sand grains collected from the original habitat (Porto di Levante, Vulcano, Italy), and to various other surfaces. P. furiosus grew on surfaces in biofilm-like structures, forming microcolonies with cells interconnected by flagella and adhering to the solid supports. Therefore, we concluded that P. furiosus probably uses flagella for swimming but that the cell surface appendages also enable this archaeon to form cable-like cell-cell connections and to adhere to solid surfaces.
PMCID: PMC1595509  PMID: 16980494
19.  Natural Communities of Novel Archaea and Bacteria Growing in Cold Sulfurous Springs with a String-of-Pearls-Like Morphology 
We report the identification of novel archaea living in close association with bacteria in the cold (approximately 10°C) sulfurous marsh water of the Sippenauer Moor near Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. These microorganisms form a characteristic, macroscopically visible structure, morphologically comparable to a string of pearls. Tiny, whitish globules (the pearls; diameter, about 0.5 to 3.0 mm) are connected to each other by thin, white-colored threads. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) studies have revealed that the outer part of the pearls is mainly composed of bacteria, with a filamentous bacterium predominating. Internally, archaeal cocci are the predominant microorganisms, with up to 107 cells estimated to be present in a single pearl. The archaea appear to be embedded in a polymer of unknown chemical composition. According to FISH and 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, the archaea are affiliated with the euryarchaeal kingdom. The new euryarchaeal sequence represents a deep phylogenetic branch within the 16S rRNA tree and does not show extensive similarity to any cultivated archaea or to 16S rRNA gene sequences from environmental samples.
PMCID: PMC92875  PMID: 11319120
20.  Eight of Fourteen gvp Genes Are Sufficient for Formation of Gas Vesicles in Halophilic Archaea 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(15):4328-4336.
The minimal number of genes required for the formation of gas vesicles in halophilic archaea has been determined. Single genes of the 14 gvp genes present in the p-vac region on plasmid pHH1 of Halobacterium salinarum (p-gvpACNO and p-gvpDEFGHIJKLM) were deleted, and the remaining genes were tested for the formation of gas vesicles in Haloferax volcanii transformants. The deletion of six gvp genes (p-gvpCN, p-gvpDE, and p-gvpHI) still enabled the production of gas vesicles in H. volcanii. The gas vesicles formed in some of these gvp gene deletion transformants were altered in shape (ΔI, ΔC) or strength (ΔH) but still functioned as flotation devices. A minimal p-vac region (minvac) containing the eight remaining genes (gvpFGJKLM-gvpAO) was constructed and tested for gas vesicle formation in H. volcanii. The minvac transformants did not form gas vesicles; however, minvac/gvpJKLM double transformants contained gas vesicles seen as light refractile bodies by phase-contrast microscopy. Transcript analyses demonstrated that minvac transformants synthesized regular amounts of gvpA mRNA, but the transcripts derived from gvpFGJKLM were mainly short and encompassed only gvpFG(J), suggesting that the gvpJKLM genes were not sufficiently expressed. Since gvpAO and gvpFGJKLM are the only gvp genes present in minvac/JKLM transformants containing gas vesicles, these gvp genes represent the minimal set required for gas vesicle formation in halophilic archaea. Homologs of six of these gvp genes are found in Anabaena flos-aquae, and homologs of all eight minimal halobacterial gvp genes are present in Bacillus megaterium and in the genome of Streptomyces coelicolor.
PMCID: PMC101952  PMID: 10894744
21.  Interaction of Human Phagocytes with Pigmentless Aspergillus Conidia 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(6):3736-3739.
A defect in the pksP gene of Aspergillus fumigatus is associated with the loss of conidial pigmentation, a profound change of the conidial surface structure, and reduced virulence. The structural change of the conidial surface structure was not observed in similar A. nidulans wA mutants. Our data indicate that the pigment of both species is important for scavenging reactive oxygen species and for protection of conidia against oxidative damage.
PMCID: PMC97669  PMID: 10816538
22.  Motility and Flagellum Synthesis in Halobacillus halophilus Are Chloride Dependent 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(2):532-535.
The motility of Halobacillus halophilus as observed on swarm agar plates was strictly dependent on the chloride concentration. Cl− was apparently not used as the coupling ion for flagellar rotation. Cells grown in the absence of chloride were devoid of flagella, but flagellation was restored upon the addition of chloride. These experiments indicate that chloride is involved in synthesis of flagella in H. halophilus.
PMCID: PMC94309  PMID: 10629206
23.  Vir Proteins Stabilize VirB5 and Mediate Its Association with the T Pilus of Agrobacterium tumefaciens 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(24):7485-7492.
Three VirB proteins (VirB1*, VirB2, and VirB5) have been implicated as putative components of the T pilus from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which likely mediates binding to plant cells followed by transfer of genetic material. Recently, VirB2 was indeed shown to be its major component (E.-M. Lai and C. I. Kado, J. Bacteriol. 180:2711–2717, 1998). Here, the influence of other Vir proteins on the stability and cellular localization of VirB1*, VirB2, and VirB5 was analyzed. Solubility of VirB1* and membrane association of VirB2 proved to be inherent features of these proteins, independent of virulence gene induction. In contrast, cellular levels of VirB5 were strongly reduced in the absence of other Vir proteins, indicating its stabilization by protein-protein interactions. The assembly and composition of the T pilus were analyzed in nopaline strain C58(pTiC58), its flagellum-free derivative NT1REB(pJK270), and octopine strain A348(pTiA6) following optimized virulence gene induction on solid agar medium. In all strains VirB2 was the major pilus component and VirB5 cofractionated during several purification steps, such as ultracentrifugation, gel filtration, and sucrose gradient centrifugation. VirB5 may therefore be directly involved in pilus assembly, possibly as minor component. In contrast, secreted VirB1* showed no association with the T pilus. In-frame deletions in genes virB1, virB2, virB5, and virB6 blocked the formation of virulence gene-dependent extracellular high-molecular-weight structures. Thus, an intact VirB machinery as well as VirB2 and VirB5 are required for T-pilus formation.
PMCID: PMC94205  PMID: 10601205
24.  Thermocrinis ruber gen. nov., sp. nov., a Pink-Filament-Forming Hyperthermophilic Bacterium Isolated from Yellowstone National Park 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1998;64(10):3576-3583.
A novel hyperthermophilic bacterium was isolated from pink filamentous streamers (pink filaments) occurring in the upper outflow channel (temperature, 82 to 88°C) of Octopus Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. The gram-negative cells grew at low salinity at temperatures up to 89°C in the neutral to alkaline pH range. Depending on the culture conditions, the organisms occurred as single motile rods, as aggregates, or as long filaments that formed streamer-like cell masses. The novel isolate grew chemolithoautotrophically with hydrogen, thiosulfate, and elemental sulfur as electron donors and oxygen as the electron acceptor. Alternatively, under aerobic conditions, formate and formamide served as sole energy and carbon sources. The novel isolate had a 16S rRNA sequence closely related to the 16S rRNA sequence obtained from uncultivated pink filaments. It represents a new genus in the order Aquificales, the type species of which we name Thermocrinis ruber (type strain, OC 1/4 [= DSM 12173]).
PMCID: PMC106467  PMID: 9758770

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