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1.  Hot Transcriptomics 
Archaea  2011;2010:897585.
DNA microarray technology allows for a quick and easy comparison of complete transcriptomes, resulting in improved molecular insight in fluctuations of gene expression. After emergence of the microarray technology about a decade ago, the technique has now matured and has become routine in many molecular biology laboratories. Numerous studies have been performed that have provided global transcription patterns of many organisms under a wide range of conditions. Initially, implementation of this high-throughput technology has lead to high expectations for ground breaking discoveries. Here an evaluation is performed of the insight that transcriptome analysis has brought about in the field of hyperthermophilic archaea. The examples that will be discussed have been selected on the basis of their impact, in terms of either biological insight or technological progress.
PMCID: PMC3038420  PMID: 21350598
2.  DNA-guided DNA interference by a prokaryotic Argonaute 
Nature  2014;507(7491):258-261.
RNA interference is widely distributed in eukaryotes and has a variety of functions, including antiviral defence and gene regulation1,2. All RNA interference pathways use small single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules that guide proteins of the Argonaute (Ago) family to complementary ssRNA targets: RNA-guided RNA interference1,2. The role of prokaryotic Ago variants has remained elusive, although bioinformatics analysis has suggested their involvement in host defence3. Here we demonstrate that Ago of the bacterium Thermus thermophilus (TtAgo) acts as a barrier for the uptake and propagation of foreign DNA. In vivo, TtAgo is loaded with 5′-phosphorylated DNA guides, 13–25 nucleotides in length, that are mostly plasmid derived and have a strong bias for a 5′-end deoxycytidine. These small interfering DNAs guide TtAgo to cleave complementary DNA strands. Hence, despite structural homology to its eukaryotic counterparts, TtAgo functions in host defence by DNA-guided DNA interference.
PMCID: PMC4697943  PMID: 24531762
3.  The evolutionary journey of Argonaute proteins 
Argonaute proteins are conserved throughout all domains of life. Recently characterized prokaryotic Argonaute proteins (pAgos) participate in host defense by DNA interference, whereas eukaryotic Argonaute proteins (eAgos) control a wide range of processes by RNA interference. Here we review molecular mechanisms of guide and target binding by Argonaute proteins, and describe how the conformational changes induced by target binding lead to target cleavage. On the basis of structural comparisons and phylogenetic analyses of pAgos and eAgos, we reconstruct the evolutionary journey of the Argonaute proteins through the three domains of life and discuss how different structural features of pAgos and eAgos relate to their distinct physiological roles.
PMCID: PMC4691850  PMID: 25192263
4.  RNA Targeting by the Type III-A CRISPR-Cas Csm Complex of Thermus thermophilus 
Molecular cell  2014;56(4):518-530.
CRISPR-Cas is a prokaryotic adaptive immune system that provides sequence-specific defense against foreign nucleic acids. Here we report the structure and function of the effector complex of the Type III-A CRISPR-Cas system of Thermus thermophilus: the Csm complex (TtCsm). TtCsm is composed of five different protein subunits (Csm1–Csm5) with an uneven stoichiometry and a single crRNA of variable size (35–53 nt). The TtCsm crRNA content is similar to the Type III-B Cmr complex, indicating that crRNAs are shared among different subtypes. A negative stain EM structure of the TtCsm complex exhibits the characteristic architecture of Type I and Type III CRISPR-associated ribonucleoprotein complexes. crRNA-protein crosslinking studies show extensive contacts between the Csm3 backbone and the bound crRNA. We show that, like TtCmr, TtCsm cleaves complementary target RNAs at multiple sites. Unlike Type I complexes, interference by TtCsm does not proceed via initial base pairing by a seed sequence.
PMCID: PMC4342149  PMID: 25457165
5.  CRISPR sabotage 
Genome Biology  2015;16:248.
The biological arms race generally involves the rapid co-evolution of anti-virus systems in host organisms and of anti-anti-virus systems in their viral parasites. The CRISPR-Cas system is an example of a prokaryotic immune system in which such co-evolution occurs, as was recently demonstrated by the characterization of a set of viral anti-CRISPR proteins.
PMCID: PMC4638106  PMID: 26553202
6.  Structures of the CRISPR-Cmr complex reveal mode of RNA target positioning 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2015;348(6234):581-585.
Adaptive immunity in bacteria involves RNA-guided surveillance complexes that use CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-associated (Cas) proteins together with CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) to target invasive nucleic acids for degradation. While Type I and Type II CRISPR-Cas surveillance complexes target double-stranded DNA, Type III complexes target single-stranded RNA. Near-atomic resolution cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) reconstructions of native Type III Cmr (CRISPR RAMP module) complexes in the absence and presence of target RNA reveal a helical protein arrangement that positions the crRNA for substrate binding. Thumb-like β-hairpins intercalate between segments of duplexed crRNA:target RNA to facilitate cleavage of the target at 6-nt intervals. The Cmr complex is architecturally similar to the Type I CRISPR-Cascade complex, suggesting divergent evolution of these immune systems from a common ancestor.
PMCID: PMC4582657  PMID: 25837515
7.  Genomic, Proteomic, and Biochemical Analysis of the Organohalide Respiratory Pathway in Desulfitobacterium dehalogenans 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;197(5):893-904.
Desulfitobacterium dehalogenans is able to grow by organohalide respiration using 3-chloro-4-hydroxyphenyl acetate (Cl-OHPA) as an electron acceptor. We used a combination of genome sequencing, biochemical analysis of redox active components, and shotgun proteomics to study elements of the organohalide respiratory electron transport chain. The genome of Desulfitobacterium dehalogenans JW/IU-DC1T consists of a single circular chromosome of 4,321,753 bp with a GC content of 44.97%. The genome contains 4,252 genes, including six rRNA operons and six predicted reductive dehalogenases. One of the reductive dehalogenases, CprA, is encoded by a well-characterized cprTKZEBACD gene cluster. Redox active components were identified in concentrated suspensions of cells grown on formate and Cl-OHPA or formate and fumarate, using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), visible spectroscopy, and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of membrane extracts. In cell suspensions, these components were reduced upon addition of formate and oxidized after addition of Cl-OHPA, indicating involvement in organohalide respiration. Genome analysis revealed genes that likely encode the identified components of the electron transport chain from formate to fumarate or Cl-OHPA. Data presented here suggest that the first part of the electron transport chain from formate to fumarate or Cl-OHPA is shared. Electrons are channeled from an outward-facing formate dehydrogenase via menaquinones to a fumarate reductase located at the cytoplasmic face of the membrane. When Cl-OHPA is the terminal electron acceptor, electrons are transferred from menaquinones to outward-facing CprA, via an as-yet-unidentified membrane complex, and potentially an extracellular flavoprotein acting as an electron shuttle between the quinol dehydrogenase membrane complex and CprA.
PMCID: PMC4325113  PMID: 25512312
8.  Isolation and Screening of Thermophilic Bacilli from Compost for Electrotransformation and Fermentation: Characterization of Bacillus smithii ET 138 as a New Biocatalyst 
Thermophilic bacteria are regarded as attractive production organisms for cost-efficient conversion of renewable resources to green chemicals, but their genetic accessibility is a major bottleneck in developing them into versatile platform organisms. In this study, we aimed to isolate thermophilic, facultatively anaerobic bacilli that are genetically accessible and have potential as platform organisms. From compost, we isolated 267 strains that produced acids from C5 and C6 sugars at temperatures of 55°C or 65°C. Subsequently, 44 strains that showed the highest production of acids were screened for genetic accessibility by electroporation. Two Geobacillus thermodenitrificans isolates and one Bacillus smithii isolate were found to be transformable with plasmid pNW33n. Of these, B. smithii ET 138 was the best-performing strain in laboratory-scale fermentations and was capable of producing organic acids from glucose as well as from xylose. It is an acidotolerant strain able to produce organic acids until a lower limit of approximately pH 4.5. As genetic accessibility of B. smithii had not been described previously, six other B. smithii strains from the DSMZ culture collection were tested for electroporation efficiencies, and we found the type strain DSM 4216T and strain DSM 460 to be transformable. The transformation protocol for B. smithii isolate ET 138 was optimized to obtain approximately 5 × 103 colonies per μg plasmid pNW33n. Genetic accessibility combined with robust acid production capacities on C5 and C6 sugars at a relatively broad pH range make B. smithii ET 138 an attractive biocatalyst for the production of lactic acid and potentially other green chemicals.
PMCID: PMC4325177  PMID: 25556192
9.  NADPH-generating systems in bacteria and archaea 
Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) is an essential electron donor in all organisms. It provides the reducing power that drives numerous anabolic reactions, including those responsible for the biosynthesis of all major cell components and many products in biotechnology. The efficient synthesis of many of these products, however, is limited by the rate of NADPH regeneration. Hence, a thorough understanding of the reactions involved in the generation of NADPH is required to increase its turnover through rational strain improvement. Traditionally, the main engineering targets for increasing NADPH availability have included the dehydrogenase reactions of the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway and the isocitrate dehydrogenase step of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. However, the importance of alternative NADPH-generating reactions has recently become evident. In the current review, the major canonical and non-canonical reactions involved in the production and regeneration of NADPH in prokaryotes are described, and their key enzymes are discussed. In addition, an overview of how different enzymes have been applied to increase NADPH availability and thereby enhance productivity is provided.
PMCID: PMC4518329  PMID: 26284036
NADPH regeneration; pentose phosphate pathway; isocitrate dehydrogenase; malic enzyme; transhydrogenase; GAPN; ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase; hydrogenase
10.  Establishment of markerless gene deletion tools in thermophilic Bacillus smithii and construction of multiple mutant strains 
Microbial conversion of biomass to fuels or chemicals is an attractive alternative for fossil-based fuels and chemicals. Thermophilic microorganisms have several operational advantages as a production host over mesophilic organisms, such as low cooling costs, reduced contamination risks and a process temperature matching that of commercial hydrolytic enzymes, enabling simultaneous saccharification and fermentation at higher efficiencies and with less enzymes. However, genetic tools for biotechnologically relevant thermophiles are still in their infancy. In this study we developed a markerless gene deletion method for the thermophile Bacillus smithii and we report the first metabolic engineering of this species as a potential platform organism.
Clean deletions of the ldhL gene were made in two B. smithii strains (DSM 4216T and compost isolate ET 138) by homologous recombination. Whereas both wild-type strains produced mainly l-lactate, deletion of the ldhL gene blocked l-lactate production and caused impaired anaerobic growth and acid production. To facilitate the mutagenesis process, we established a counter-selection system for efficient plasmid removal based on lacZ-mediated X-gal toxicity. This counter-selection system was applied to construct a sporulation-deficient B. smithii ΔldhL ΔsigF mutant strain. Next, we demonstrated that the system can be used repetitively by creating B. smithii triple mutant strain ET 138 ΔldhL ΔsigF ΔpdhA, from which also the gene encoding the α-subunit of the E1 component of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex is deleted. This triple mutant strain produced no acetate and is auxotrophic for acetate, indicating that pyruvate dehydrogenase is the major route from pyruvate to acetyl-CoA.
In this study, we developed a markerless gene deletion method including a counter-selection system for thermophilic B. smithii, constituting the first report of metabolic engineering in this species. The described markerless gene deletion system paves the way for more extensive metabolic engineering of B. smithii. This enables the development of this species into a platform organism and provides tools for studying its metabolism, which appears to be different from its close relatives such as B. coagulans and other bacilli.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-015-0286-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4494709  PMID: 26148486
Bacillus smithii; Thermophile; Lactate dehydrogenase; Sporulation; Pyruvate dehydrogenase; Counter-selection system
11.  Unravelling the structural and mechanistic basis of CRISPR–Cas systems 
Nature reviews. Microbiology  2014;12(7):479-492.
Bacteria and archaea have evolved sophisticated adaptive immune systems, known as CRISPR–Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–CRISPR-associated proteins) systems, which target and inactivate invading viruses and plasmids. Immunity is acquired by integrating short fragments of foreign DNA into CRISPR loci, and following transcription and processing of these loci, the CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) guide the Cas proteins to complementary invading nucleic acid, which results in target interference. In this Review, we summarize the recent structural and biochemical insights that have been gained for the three major types of CRISPR–Cas systems, which together provide a detailed molecular understanding of the unique and conserved mechanisms of RNA-guided adaptive immunity in bacteria and archaea.
PMCID: PMC4225775  PMID: 24909109
12.  The chromosome copy number of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus kodakarensis KOD1 
Extremophiles  2015;19(4):741-750.
The euryarchaeon Thermococcus kodakarensis is a well-characterized anaerobic hyperthermophilic heterotroph and due to the availability of genetic engineering systems it has become one of the model organisms for studying Archaea. Despite this prominent role among the Euryarchaeota, no data about the ploidy level of this species is available. While polyploidy has been shown to exist in various Euryarchaeota, especially Halobacteria, the chromosome copy number of species belonging to one of the major orders within that phylum, i.e., the Thermococcales (including Thermococcus spp. and Pyrococcus spp.), has never been determined. This prompted us to investigate the chromosome copy number of T. kodakarensis. In this study, we demonstrate that T. kodakarensis is polyploid with a chromosome copy number that varies between 7 and 19 copies, depending on the growth phase. An apparent correlation between the presence of histones and polyploidy in Archaea is observed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-015-0750-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4502288  PMID: 25952670
Thermococcus kodakarensis; Chromosome copy number; Genome copy number; Archaea; Polyploidy; Euryarcheaota
13.  Argonaute of the archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus is a DNA-guided nuclease that targets cognate DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(10):5120-5129.
Functions of prokaryotic Argonautes (pAgo) have long remained elusive. Recently, Argonautes of the bacteria Rhodobacter sphaeroides and Thermus thermophilus were demonstrated to be involved in host defense. The Argonaute of the archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus (PfAgo) belongs to a different branch in the phylogenetic tree, which is most closely related to that of RNA interference-mediating eukaryotic Argonautes. Here we describe a functional and mechanistic characterization of PfAgo. Like the bacterial counterparts, archaeal PfAgo contributes to host defense by interfering with the uptake of plasmid DNA. PfAgo utilizes small 5′-phosphorylated DNA guides to cleave both single stranded and double stranded DNA targets, and does not utilize RNA as guide or target. Thus, with respect to function and specificity, the archaeal PfAgo resembles bacterial Argonautes much more than eukaryotic Argonautes. These findings demonstrate that the role of Argonautes is conserved through the bacterial and archaeal domains of life and suggests that eukaryotic Argonautes are derived from DNA-guided DNA-interfering host defense systems.
PMCID: PMC4446448  PMID: 25925567
14.  Effects of Argonaute on Gene Expression in Thermus thermophilus 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0124880.
Eukaryotic Argonaute proteins mediate RNA-guided RNA interference, allowing both regulation of host gene expression and defense against invading mobile genetic elements. Recently, it has become evident that prokaryotic Argonaute homologs mediate DNA-guided DNA interference, and play a role in host defense. Argonaute of the bacterium Thermus thermophilus (TtAgo) targets invading plasmid DNA during and after transformation. Using small interfering DNA guides, TtAgo can cleave single and double stranded DNAs. Although TtAgo additionally has been demonstrated to cleave RNA targets complementary to its DNA guide in vitro, RNA targeting by TtAgo has not been demonstrated in vivo.
To investigate if TtAgo also has the potential to control RNA levels, we analyzed RNA-seq data derived from cultures of four T. thermophilus strain HB27 variants: wild type, TtAgo knockout (Δago), and either strain transformed with a plasmid. Additionally we determined the effect of TtAgo on expression of plasmid-encoded RNA and plasmid DNA levels.
In the absence of exogenous DNA (plasmid), TtAgo presence or absence had no effect on gene expression levels. When plasmid DNA is present, TtAgo reduces plasmid DNA levels 4-fold, and a corresponding reduction of plasmid gene transcript levels was observed. We therefore conclude that TtAgo interferes with plasmid DNA, but not with plasmid-encoded RNA. Interestingly, TtAgo presence stimulates expression of specific endogenous genes, but only when exogenous plasmid DNA was present. Specifically, the presence of TtAgo directly or indirectly stimulates expression of CRISPR loci and associated genes, some of which are involved in CRISPR adaptation. This suggests that TtAgo-mediated interference with plasmid DNA stimulates CRISPR adaptation.
PMCID: PMC4406477  PMID: 25902012
15.  Crystal structure of the CRISPR RNA-guided surveillance complex from Escherichia coli* 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2014;345(6203):1473-1479.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) are essential components of RNA-guided adaptive immune systems that protect bacteria and archaea from viruses and plasmids. In Escherichia coli, short CRISPR-derived RNAs (crRNAs) assemble into a 405 kDa multi-subunit surveillance complex called Cascade (CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense). Here we present the 3.24 Å resolution x-ray crystal structure of Cascade. Eleven proteins and a 61-nucleotide crRNA assemble into a sea-horse-shaped architecture that binds double-stranded DNA targets complementary to the crRNA-guide sequence. Conserved sequences on the 3′- and 5′-ends of the crRNA are anchored by proteins at opposite ends of the complex, while the guide sequence is displayed along a helical assembly of six interwoven subunits that present 5-nucleotide segments of the crRNA in pseudo A-form configuration. The structure of Cascade suggests a mechanism for assembly and provides insights into the mechanisms of target recognition.
PMCID: PMC4188430  PMID: 25103409
16.  The Role of CRISPR-Cas Systems in Virulence of Pathogenic Bacteria 
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) genes are present in many bacterial and archaeal genomes. Since the discovery of the typical CRISPR loci in the 1980s, well before their physiological role was revealed, their variable sequences have been used as a complementary typing tool in diagnostic, epidemiologic, and evolutionary analyses of prokaryotic strains. The discovery that CRISPR spacers are often identical to sequence fragments of mobile genetic elements was a major breakthrough that eventually led to the elucidation of CRISPR-Cas as an adaptive immunity system. Key elements of this unique prokaryotic defense system are small CRISPR RNAs that guide nucleases to complementary target nucleic acids of invading viruses and plasmids, generally followed by the degradation of the invader. In addition, several recent studies have pointed at direct links of CRISPR-Cas to regulation of a range of stress-related phenomena. An interesting example concerns a pathogenic bacterium that possesses a CRISPR-associated ribonucleoprotein complex that may play a dual role in defense and/or virulence. In this review, we describe recently reported cases of potential involvement of CRISPR-Cas systems in bacterial stress responses in general and bacterial virulence in particular.
PMCID: PMC3957734  PMID: 24600041
17.  Beat their swords into ploughshares 
Microbial Biotechnology  2015;8(1):34-35.
PMCID: PMC4321368  PMID: 25627844
18.  Structures of the RNA-guided surveillance complex from a bacterial immune system 
Nature  2011;477(7365):486-489.
Bacteria and archaea acquire resistance to viruses and plasmids by integrating short fragments of foreign DNA into clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs). These repetitive loci maintain a genetic record of all prior encounters with foreign transgressors1–6. CRISPRs are transcribed and the long primary transcript is processed into a library of short CRISPR-derived RNAs (crRNAs) that contain a unique sequence complementary to a foreign nucleic-acid challenger7–12. In Escherichia coli, crRNAs are incorporated into a multisubunit surveillance complex called Cascade (CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defence), which is required for protection against bacteriophages13,14. Here we use cryo-electron microscopy to determine the subnanometre structures of Cascade before and after binding to a target sequence. These structures reveal a sea-horse-shaped architecture in which the crRNA is displayed along a helical arrangement of protein subunits that protect the crRNA from degradation while maintaining its availability for base pairing. Cascade engages invading nucleic acids through high-affinity base-pairing interactions near the 5′ end of the crRNA. Base pairing extends along the crRNA, resultingina series of short helical segments that trigger a concerted conformational change. This conformational rearrangement may serve as a signal that recruits a trans-acting nuclease (Cas3) for destruction of invading nucleic-acid sequences.
PMCID: PMC4165517  PMID: 21938068
19.  Molecular Characterization of an NADPH-Dependent Acetoin Reductase/2,3-Butanediol Dehydrogenase from Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 
Acetoin reductase is an important enzyme for the fermentative production of 2,3-butanediol, a chemical compound with a very broad industrial use. Here, we report on the discovery and characterization of an acetoin reductase from Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052. An in silico screen of the C. beijerinckii genome revealed eight potential acetoin reductases. One of them (CBEI_1464) showed substantial acetoin reductase activity after expression in Escherichia coli. The purified enzyme (C. beijerinckii acetoin reductase [Cb-ACR]) was found to exist predominantly as a homodimer. In addition to acetoin (or 2,3-butanediol), other secondary alcohols and corresponding ketones were converted as well, provided that another electronegative group was attached to the adjacent C-3 carbon. Optimal activity was at pH 6.5 (reduction) and 9.5 (oxidation) and around 68°C. Cb-ACR accepts both NADH and NADPH as electron donors; however, unlike closely related enzymes, NADPH is preferred (Km, 32 μM). Cb-ACR was compared to characterized close homologs, all belonging to the “threonine dehydrogenase and related Zn-dependent dehydrogenases” (COG1063). Metal analysis confirmed the presence of 2 Zn2+ atoms. To gain insight into the substrate and cofactor specificity, a structural model was constructed. The catalytic zinc atom is likely coordinated by Cys37, His70, and Glu71, while the structural zinc site is probably composed of Cys100, Cys103, Cys106, and Cys114. Residues determining NADP specificity were predicted as well. The physiological role of Cb-ACR in C. beijerinckii is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3957656  PMID: 24441158
20.  RNA in Defense: CRISPRs Protect Prokaryotes against Mobile Genetic Elements 
The CRISPR/Cas system in prokaryotes provides resistance against invading viruses and plasmids. Three distinct stages in the mechanism can be recognized. Initially, fragments of invader DNA are integrated as new spacers into the repetitive CRISPR locus. Subsequently, the CRISPR is transcribed and the transcript is cleaved by a Cas protein within the repeats, generating short RNAs (crRNAs) that contain the spacer sequence. Finally, crRNAs guide the Cas protein machinery to a complementary invader target, either DNA or RNA, resulting in inhibition of virus or plasmid proliferation. In this article, we discuss our current understanding of this fascinating adaptive and heritable defense system, and describe functional similarities and differences with RNAi in eukaryotes.
Prokaryotes possess an adaptive defense mechanism that incorporates foreign DNA/RNA and generates short complementary RNAs that target sequences in invading viruses and plasmids for destruction.
PMCID: PMC3367551  PMID: 21441598
21.  Structure and activity of the RNA-targeting Type III-B CRISPR-Cas complex of Thermus thermophilus 
Molecular cell  2013;52(1):135-145.
The CRISPR-Cas system is a prokaryotic host defense system against genetic elements. The Type III-B CRISPR-Cas system of the bacterium Thermus thermophilus, the TtCmr complex, is composed of six different protein subunits (Cmr1-6) and one crRNA with a stoichiometry of Cmr112131445361:crRNA1. The TtCmr complex co-purifies with crRNA species of 40 and 46 nt, originating from a distinct subset of CRISPR loci and spacers. The TtCmr complex cleaves the target RNA at multiple sites with 6 nt intervals via a 5’ ruler mechanism. Electron microscopy revealed that the structure of TtCmr resembles a ‘sea worm’ and is composed of a Cmr2-3 heterodimer ‘tail’, a helical backbone of Cmr4 subunits capped by Cmr5 subunits, and a curled ‘head’ containing Cmr1 and Cmr6. Despite having a backbone of only four Cmr4 subunits and being both longer and narrower, the overall architecture of TtCmr resembles that of Type I Cascade complexes.
PMCID: PMC4006948  PMID: 24119403
22.  Massive Activation of Archaeal Defense Genes during Viral Infection 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(15):8419-8428.
Archaeal viruses display unusually high genetic and morphological diversity. Studies of these viruses proved to be instrumental for the expansion of knowledge on viral diversity and evolution. The Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus 2 (SIRV2) is a model to study virus-host interactions in Archaea. It is a lytic virus that exploits a unique egress mechanism based on the formation of remarkable pyramidal structures on the host cell envelope. Using whole-transcriptome sequencing, we present here a global map defining host and viral gene expression during the infection cycle of SIRV2 in its hyperthermophilic host S. islandicus LAL14/1. This information was used, in combination with a yeast two-hybrid analysis of SIRV2 protein interactions, to advance current understanding of viral gene functions. As a consequence of SIRV2 infection, transcription of more than one-third of S. islandicus genes was differentially regulated. While expression of genes involved in cell division decreased, those genes playing a role in antiviral defense were activated on a large scale. Expression of genes belonging to toxin-antitoxin and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems was specifically pronounced. The observed different degree of activation of various CRISPR-Cas systems highlights the specialized functions they perform. The information on individual gene expression and activation of antiviral defense systems is expected to aid future studies aimed at detailed understanding of the functions and interplay of these systems in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3719828  PMID: 23698312
23.  Cascade-mediated binding and bending of negatively supercoiled DNA 
RNA Biology  2012;9(9):1134-1138.
Prokaryotes possess various defense mechanisms against invading DNA. Adaptive defense by CRISPR/Cas relies on incorporation of invader DNA sequences in the host genome. In Escherichia coli, processed transcripts of these incorporated sequences (crRNAs) guide Cascade-mediated invader DNA recognition.1–4 Cascade is a multisubunit ribonucleoprotein complex, consisting of one crRNA and five proteins: Cse1, Cse2, Cas7, Cas5 and Cas6e.1, 2 Cascade-mediated DNA recognition requires a conserved sequence adjacent to the target (protospacer adjacent motif, PAM) and a negatively supercoiled DNA topology.3, 4 While Cse1 carries out PAM recognition,5 the Cascade structure suggests that Cse2 may interact with target DNA in the PAM-distal end of the protospacer.6 Using Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assays, we here describe the function of the Cse1 and Cse2 subunits in the context of protospacer recognition on negatively supercoiled DNA. While Cse1 is required for nonspecific DNA binding, Cse2 appears to be important for specific binding, presumably by mediating stabilizing interactions with the displaced strand, the R-loop, or both. Furthermore, we performed Scanning Force Microscopy using linearized DNA molecules, which facilitates accurate and reliable measurements of Cascade-mediated bending. This analysis reveals that Cascade binding induces flexibility in the DNA target, most likely due to single stranded DNA regions flanking the R-loop.
PMCID: PMC3579878  PMID: 22954644
CRISPR; DNA; RNA; bacteria; defense; immune; nucleic acids; phage; prokaryotes; ribonucleoprotein complex
24.  CRISPR immunity relies on the consecutive binding and degradation of negatively supercoiled invader DNA by Cascade and Cas3 
Molecular Cell  2012;46(5):595-605.
The prokaryotic CRISPR/Cas immune system is based on genomic loci that contain incorporated sequence tags from viruses and plasmids. Using small guide RNA molecules, these sequences act as a memory to reject returning invaders. Both the Cascade ribonucleoprotein complex and the Cas3 nuclease/helicase are required for CRISPR-interference in Escherichia coli, but it is unknown how natural target DNA molecules are recognized and neutralized by their combined action. Here we show that Cascade efficiently locates target sequences in negatively supercoiled DNA, but only if these are flanked by a Protospacer Adjacent Motif (PAM). PAM recognition by Cascade exclusively involves the crRNA-complementary DNA strand. After Cascade-mediated R-loop formation, the Cse1 subunit recruits Cas3, which catalyzes nicking of target DNA through its HD-nuclease domain. The target is then progressively unwound and cleaved by the joint ATP-dependent helicase activity and Mg2+-dependent HD-nuclease activity of Cas3, leading to complete target DNA degradation and invader neutralization.
PMCID: PMC3372689  PMID: 22521689
25.  Functional and structural characterization of a thermostable acetyl esterase from Thermotoga maritima 
Proteins  2012;80(6):1545-1559.
TM0077 from Thermotoga maritima is a member of the carbohydrate esterase family 7 and is active on a variety of acetylated compounds, including cephalosporin C. TM0077 esterase activity is confined to short-chain acyl esters (C2-C3), and is optimal around 100°C and pH 7.5. The positional specificity of TM0077 was investigated using 4-nitrophenyl-β-D-xylopyranoside monoacetates as substrates in a β-xylosidase-coupled assay. TM0077 hydrolyzes acetate at positions 2, 3 and 4 with equal efficiency. No activity was detected on xylan or acetylated xylan, which implies that TM0077 is an acetyl esterase and not an acetyl xylan esterase as currently annotated. Selenomethionine-substituted and native structures of TM0077 were determined at 2.1 Å and 2.5 Å resolution, respectively, revealing a classic α/β-hydrolase fold. TM0077 assembles into a doughnut-shaped hexamer with small tunnels on either side leading to an inner cavity, which contains the six catalytic centers. Structures of TM0077 with covalently bound phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF) and paraoxon were determined to 2.4 Å and 2.1 Å, respectively, and confirmed that both inhibitors bind covalently to the catalytic serine (Ser188). Upon binding of inhibitor, the catalytic serine adopts an altered conformation, as observed in other esterase and lipases, and supports a previously proposed catalytic mechanism in which this Ser hydroxyl rotation prevents reversal of the reaction and allows access of a water molecule for completion of the reaction.
PMCID: PMC3348966  PMID: 22411095
Acetyl esterase; Thermotoga maritima; crystal structure; α/β hydrolase; inhibitor; serine rotation

Results 1-25 (69)