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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.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  A capture approach for supercoiled plasmid DNA using a triplex-forming oligonucleotide 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(10):e111.
Proteins that recognize and bind specific sites in DNA are essential for regulation of numerous biological functions. Such proteins often require a negative supercoiled DNA topology to function correctly. In current research, short linear DNA is often used to study DNA–protein interactions. Although linear DNA can easily be modified, for capture on a surface, its relaxed topology does not accurately resemble the natural situation in which DNA is generally negatively supercoiled. Moreover, specific binding sequences are flanked by large stretches of non-target sequence in vivo. Here, we present a straightforward method for capturing negatively supercoiled plasmid DNA on a streptavidin surface. It relies on the formation of a temporary parallel triplex, using a triple helix forming oligonucleotide containing locked nucleic acid nucleotides. All materials required for this method are commercially available. Lac repressor binding to its operator was used as model system. Although the dissociation constants for both the linear and plasmid-based operator are in the range of 4 nM, the association and dissociation rates of Lac repressor binding to the plasmid-based operator are ∼18 times slower than on a linear fragment. This difference underscores the importance of using a physiologically relevant DNA topology for studying DNA–protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC3664820  PMID: 23571753
11.  Biohydrogen Production by the Thermophilic Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus: Current Status and Perspectives 
Life : Open Access Journal  2013;3(1):52-85.
Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus is one of the most thermophilic cellulolytic organisms known to date. This Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium ferments a broad spectrum of mono-, di- and polysaccharides to mainly acetate, CO2 and hydrogen. With hydrogen yields approaching the theoretical limit for dark fermentation of 4 mol hydrogen per mol hexose, this organism has proven itself to be an excellent candidate for biological hydrogen production. This review provides an overview of the research on C. saccharolyticus with respect to the hydrolytic capability, sugar metabolism, hydrogen formation, mechanisms involved in hydrogen inhibition, and the regulation of the redox and carbon metabolism. Analysis of currently available fermentation data reveal decreased hydrogen yields under non-ideal cultivation conditions, which are mainly associated with the accumulation of hydrogen in the liquid phase. Thermodynamic considerations concerning the reactions involved in hydrogen formation are discussed with respect to the dissolved hydrogen concentration. Novel cultivation data demonstrate the sensitivity of C. saccharolyticus to increased hydrogen levels regarding substrate load and nitrogen limitation. In addition, special attention is given to the rhamnose metabolism, which represents an unusual type of redox balancing. Finally, several approaches are suggested to improve biohydrogen production by C. saccharolyticus.
PMCID: PMC4187192  PMID: 25371332
Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus; biohydrogen; dark fermentation; cellulolytic thermophile; thermodynamics; rhamnose metabolism; pyrophosphate; redox balance; hydrogen inhibition; regulation
12.  Evolution and classification of the CRISPR-Cas systems 
Nature Reviews. Microbiology  2011;9(6):467-477.
The CRISPR–Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–CRISPR-associated proteins) modules are adaptive immunity systems that are present in many archaea and bacteria. These defence systems are encoded by operons that have an extraordinarily diverse architecture and a high rate of evolution for both the cas genes and the unique spacer content. Here, we provide an updated analysis of the evolutionary relationships between CRISPR–Cas systems and Cas proteins. Three major types of CRISPR–Cas system are delineated, with a further division into several subtypes and a few chimeric variants. Given the complexity of the genomic architectures and the extremely dynamic evolution of the CRISPR–Cas systems, a unified classification of these systems should be based on multiple criteria. Accordingly, we propose a `polythetic' classification that integrates the phylogenies of the most common cas genes, the sequence and organization of the CRISPR repeats and the architecture of the CRISPR–cas loci.
PMCID: PMC3380444  PMID: 21552286
13.  Thermal Stabilization of an Endoglucanase by Cyclization 
Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology  2012;167(7):2039-2053.
An intein-driven protein splicing approach allowed for the covalent linkage between the N- and C-termini of a polypeptide chain to create circular variants of the endo-β-1,3-1,4-glucanase, LicA, from Bacillus licheniformis. Two circular variants, LicA-C1 and LicA-C2, which have connecting loops of 20 and 14 amino acids, respectively, showed catalytic activities that are approximately two and three times higher, respectively, compared to that of the linear LicA (LicA-L1). The thermal stability of the circular variants was significantly increased compared to the linear form. Whereas the linear glucanase lost half of its activity after 3 min at 65 °C, the two circular variants have 6-fold (LicA-C1) and 16-fold (LicA-C2) increased half-life time of inactivation. In agreement with this, fluorescence spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry studies revealed that circular enzymes undergo structural changes at higher temperatures compared to that of the linear form. The effect of calcium on the conformational stability and function of the circular LicAs was also investigated, and we observed that the presence of calcium ions results in increased thermal stability. The impact of the length of the designed loops on thermal stability of the circular proteins is discussed, and it is suggested that cyclization may be an efficient strategy for the increased stability of proteins.
PMCID: PMC3416981  PMID: 22653681
Thermophilic enzyme; Circular protein; Enzyme stability; Cyclization; Thermostability
14.  Characterization of Aptamer-Protein Complexes by X-ray Crystallography and Alternative Approaches 
Aptamers are oligonucleotide ligands, either RNA or ssDNA, selected for high-affinity binding to molecular targets, such as small organic molecules, proteins or whole microorganisms. While reports of new aptamers are numerous, characterization of their specific interaction is often restricted to the affinity of binding (KD). Over the years, crystal structures of aptamer-protein complexes have only scarcely become available. Here we describe some relevant technical issues about the process of crystallizing aptamer-protein complexes and highlight some biochemical details on the molecular basis of selected aptamer-protein interactions. In addition, alternative experimental and computational approaches are discussed to study aptamer-protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC3431876  PMID: 22949878
X-ray crystallography; aptamer; interaction; RNA/DNA-protein complex
15.  An HflX-Type GTPase from Sulfolobus solfataricus Binds to the 50S Ribosomal Subunit in All Nucleotide-Bound States▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(11):2861-2867.
HflX GTPases are found in all three domains of life, the Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. HflX from Escherichia coli has been shown to bind to the 50S ribosomal subunit in a nucleotide-dependent manner, and this interaction strongly stimulates its GTPase activity. We recently determined the structure of an HflX ortholog from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus (SsoHflX). It revealed the presence of a novel HflX domain that might function in RNA binding and is linked to a canonical G domain. This domain arrangement is common to all archaeal, bacterial, and eukaryotic HflX GTPases. This paper shows that the archaeal SsoHflX, like its bacterial orthologs, binds to the 50S ribosomal subunit. This interaction does not depend on the presence of guanine nucleotides. The HflX domain is sufficient for ribosome interaction. Binding appears to be restricted to free 50S ribosomal subunits and does not occur with 70S ribosomes engaged in translation. The fingerprint 1H-15N heteronuclear correlation nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrum of SsoHflX reveals a large number of well-resolved resonances that are broadened upon binding to the 50S ribosomal subunit. The GTPase activity of SsoHflX is stimulated by crude fractions of 50S ribosomal subunits, but this effect is lost with further high-salt purification of the 50S ribosomal subunits, suggesting that the stimulation depends on an extrinsic factor bound to the 50S ribosomal subunit. Our results reveal common properties but also marked differences between archaeal and bacterial HflX proteins.
PMCID: PMC3133125  PMID: 21478358
16.  d-2,3-Butanediol Production Due to Heterologous Expression of an Acetoin Reductase in Clostridium acetobutylicum ▿ †  
Acetoin reductase (ACR) catalyzes the conversion of acetoin to 2,3-butanediol. Under certain conditions, Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824 (and strains derived from it) generates both d- and l-stereoisomers of acetoin, but because of the absence of an ACR enzyme, it does not produce 2,3-butanediol. A gene encoding ACR from Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 was functionally expressed in C. acetobutylicum under the control of two strong promoters, the constitutive thl promoter and the late exponential adc promoter. Both ACR-overproducing strains were grown in batch cultures, during which 89 to 90% of the natively produced acetoin was converted to 20 to 22 mM d-2,3-butanediol. The addition of a racemic mixture of acetoin led to the production of both d-2,3-butanediol and meso-2,3-butanediol. A metabolic network that is in agreement with the experimental data is proposed. Native 2,3-butanediol production is a first step toward a potential homofermentative 2-butanol-producing strain of C. acetobutylicum.
PMCID: PMC3126369  PMID: 21335380
17.  Initial Mutations Direct Alternative Pathways of Protein Evolution 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001321.
Whether evolution is erratic due to random historical details, or is repeatedly directed along similar paths by certain constraints, remains unclear. Epistasis (i.e. non-additive interaction between mutations that affect fitness) is a mechanism that can contribute to both scenarios. Epistasis can constrain the type and order of selected mutations, but it can also make adaptive trajectories contingent upon the first random substitution. This effect is particularly strong under sign epistasis, when the sign of the fitness effects of a mutation depends on its genetic background. In the current study, we examine how epistatic interactions between mutations determine alternative evolutionary pathways, using in vitro evolution of the antibiotic resistance enzyme TEM-1 β-lactamase. First, we describe the diversity of adaptive pathways among replicate lines during evolution for resistance to a novel antibiotic (cefotaxime). Consistent with the prediction of epistatic constraints, most lines increased resistance by acquiring three mutations in a fixed order. However, a few lines deviated from this pattern. Next, to test whether negative interactions between alternative initial substitutions drive this divergence, alleles containing initial substitutions from the deviating lines were evolved under identical conditions. Indeed, these alternative initial substitutions consistently led to lower adaptive peaks, involving more and other substitutions than those observed in the common pathway. We found that a combination of decreased enzymatic activity and lower folding cooperativity underlies negative sign epistasis in the clash between key mutations in the common and deviating lines (Gly238Ser and Arg164Ser, respectively). Our results demonstrate that epistasis contributes to contingency in protein evolution by amplifying the selective consequences of random mutations.
Author Summary
A long-term goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the factors that govern the outcome of evolution. Epistasis (i.e. the situation in which the fitness effect of a mutation depends on its genetic background) is one such factor. Epistasis not only affects the dynamics of evolution, it may also direct its outcome by affecting the type and order of selected mutations. This effect is particularly strong under sign epistasis, which occurs when the sign of a mutation's fitness effect depends on its genetic background. Here, we demonstrate how epistasis causes divergence of mutational pathways of an antibiotic resistance enzyme, TEM-1 β-lactamase. First, we use in vitro mutagenesis followed by selection for cefotaxime resistance to demonstrate that alternative mutational pathways towards highly resistant variants exist in addition to the main pathway that was previously described. Next, to test whether negative interactions between alternative initial substitutions govern this diversification, we start identical evolution experiments with alleles containing initial substitutions from the deviating lines. These alleles consistently evolve to lower adaptive peaks and acquire different mutations than those in the main pathway. Our results demonstrate that sign epistasis between alternative initial substitutions may force evolution to follow different mutational pathways.
PMCID: PMC3048372  PMID: 21408208
18.  Occurrence of L-iduronic acid and putative D-glucuronyl C5-epimerases in prokaryotes 
Glycoconjugate Journal  2011;28(2):57-66.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are polysaccharides that are typically present in a wide diversity of animal tissue. Most common GAGs are well-characterized and pharmaceutical applications exist for many of these compounds, e.g. heparin and hyaluronan. In addition, also bacterial glycosaminoglycan-like structures exist. Some of these bacterial GAGs have been characterized, but until now no bacterial GAG has been found that possesses the modifications that are characteristic for many of the animal GAGs such as sulfation and C5-epimerization. Nevertheless, the latter conversion may also occur in bacterial and archaeal GAGs, as some prokaryotic polysaccharides have been demonstrated to contain L-iduronic acid. However, experimental evidence for the enzymatic synthesis of L-iduronic acid in prokaryotes is as yet lacking. We therefore performed an in silico screen for D-glucuronyl C5-epimerases in prokaryotes. Multiple candidate C5-epimerases were found, suggesting that many more microorganisms are likely to exist possessing an L-iduronic acid residue as constituent of their cell wall polysaccharides.
PMCID: PMC3068255  PMID: 21347714
Glycosaminoglycans; L-iduronic acid; D-glucuronyl C5-epimerase; Lipopolysaccharide; Capsule polysaccharide
19.  Fidelity in Archaeal Information Processing 
Archaea  2010;2010:960298.
A key element during the flow of genetic information in living systems is fidelity. The accuracy of DNA replication influences the genome size as well as the rate of genome evolution. The large amount of energy invested in gene expression implies that fidelity plays a major role in fitness. On the other hand, an increase in fidelity generally coincides with a decrease in velocity. Hence, an important determinant of the evolution of life has been the establishment of a delicate balance between fidelity and variability. This paper reviews the current knowledge on quality control in archaeal information processing. While the majority of these processes are homologous in Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryotes, examples are provided of nonorthologous factors and processes operating in the archaeal domain. In some instances, evidence for the existence of certain fidelity mechanisms has been provided, but the factors involved still remain to be identified.
PMCID: PMC2943090  PMID: 20871851
20.  “Hot standards” for the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus 
Extremophiles   2009;14(1):119-142.
Within the archaea, the thermoacidophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus solfataricus has become an important model organism for physiology and biochemistry, comparative and functional genomics, as well as, more recently also for systems biology approaches. Within the Sulfolobus Systems Biology (“SulfoSYS”)-project the effect of changing growth temperatures on a metabolic network is investigated at the systems level by integrating genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic and enzymatic information for production of a silicon cell-model. The network under investigation is the central carbohydrate metabolism. The generation of high-quality quantitative data, which is critical for the investigation of biological systems and the successful integration of the different datasets, derived for example from high-throughput approaches (e.g., transcriptome or proteome analyses), requires the application and compliance of uniform standard protocols, e.g., for growth and handling of the organism as well as the “–omics” approaches. Here, we report on the establishment and implementation of standard operating procedures for the different wet-lab and in silico techniques that are applied within the SulfoSYS-project and that we believe can be useful for future projects on Sulfolobus or (hyper)thermophiles in general. Beside established techniques, it includes new methodologies like strain surveillance, the improved identification of membrane proteins and the application of crenarchaeal metabolomics.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00792-009-0280-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2797409  PMID: 19802714
Crenarchaeon; Standard operating procedures; Genomics; Transcriptomics; Proteomics; Metabolomics; Biochemistry; Systems biology
21.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of an esterase with a novel domain from the hyperthermophile Thermotoga maritima  
A thermostable esterase (EstA) from Thermotoga maritima was cloned and purified. Crystals of EstA and its selenomethionine derivative were grown and diffract to beyond 2.6 Å resolution at 100 K using synchrotron radiation.
A predicted esterase (EstA) with an unusual new domain from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima has been cloned and overexpressed in Escherichia coli. The purified protein was crystallized by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion technique in the presence of lithium sulfate and polyethylene glycol 8000. Selenomethionine-substituted EstA crystals were obtained under the same conditions and three different-wavelength data sets were collected to 2.6 Å resolution. The crystal belongs to space group H32, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 130.2, c = 306.2 Å. There are two molecules in the asymmetric unit, with a V M of 2.9 Å3 Da−1 and 58% solvent content.
PMCID: PMC2376313  PMID: 17768353
esterases; Thermotoga maritima
22.  Prokaryotic homologs of Argonaute proteins are predicted to function as key components of a novel system of defense against mobile genetic elements 
Biology Direct  2009;4:29.
In eukaryotes, RNA interference (RNAi) is a major mechanism of defense against viruses and transposable elements as well of regulating translation of endogenous mRNAs. The RNAi systems recognize the target RNA molecules via small guide RNAs that are completely or partially complementary to a region of the target. Key components of the RNAi systems are proteins of the Argonaute-PIWI family some of which function as slicers, the nucleases that cleave the target RNA that is base-paired to a guide RNA. Numerous prokaryotes possess the CRISPR-associated system (CASS) of defense against phages and plasmids that is, in part, mechanistically analogous but not homologous to eukaryotic RNAi systems. Many prokaryotes also encode homologs of Argonaute-PIWI proteins but their functions remain unknown.
We present a detailed analysis of Argonaute-PIWI protein sequences and the genomic neighborhoods of the respective genes in prokaryotes. Whereas eukaryotic Ago/PIWI proteins always contain PAZ (oligonucleotide binding) and PIWI (active or inactivated nuclease) domains, the prokaryotic Argonaute homologs (pAgos) fall into two major groups in which the PAZ domain is either present or absent. The monophyly of each group is supported by a phylogenetic analysis of the conserved PIWI-domains. Almost all pAgos that lack a PAZ domain appear to be inactivated, and the respective genes are associated with a variety of predicted nucleases in putative operons. An additional, uncharacterized domain that is fused to various nucleases appears to be a unique signature of operons encoding the short (lacking PAZ) pAgo form. By contrast, almost all PAZ-domain containing pAgos are predicted to be active nucleases. Some proteins of this group (e.g., that from Aquifex aeolicus) have been experimentally shown to possess nuclease activity, and are not typically associated with genes for other (putative) nucleases. Given these observations, the apparent extensive horizontal transfer of pAgo genes, and their common, statistically significant over-representation in genomic neighborhoods enriched in genes encoding proteins involved in the defense against phages and/or plasmids, we hypothesize that pAgos are key components of a novel class of defense systems. The PAZ-domain containing pAgos are predicted to directly destroy virus or plasmid nucleic acids via their nuclease activity, whereas the apparently inactivated, PAZ-lacking pAgos could be structural subunits of protein complexes that contain, as active moieties, the putative nucleases that we predict to be co-expressed with these pAgos. All these nucleases are predicted to be DNA endonucleases, so it seems most probable that the putative novel phage/plasmid-defense system targets phage DNA rather than mRNAs. Given that in eukaryotic RNAi systems, the PAZ domain binds a guide RNA and positions it on the complementary region of the target, we further speculate that pAgos function on a similar principle (the guide being either DNA or RNA), and that the uncharacterized domain found in putative operons with the short forms of pAgos is a functional substitute for the PAZ domain.
The hypothesis that pAgos are key components of a novel prokaryotic immune system that employs guide RNA or DNA molecules to degrade nucleic acids of invading mobile elements implies a functional analogy with the prokaryotic CASS and a direct evolutionary connection with eukaryotic RNAi. The predictions of the hypothesis including both the activities of pAgos and those of the associated endonucleases are readily amenable to experimental tests.
This article was reviewed by Daniel Haft, Martijn Huynen, and Chris Ponting.
PMCID: PMC2743648  PMID: 19706170
23.  Carboxylic ester hydrolases from hyperthermophiles 
Extremophiles   2009;13(4):567-581.
Carboxylic ester hydrolyzing enzymes constitute a large group of enzymes that are able to catalyze the hydrolysis, synthesis or transesterification of an ester bond. They can be found in all three domains of life, including the group of hyperthermophilic bacteria and archaea. Esterases from the latter group often exhibit a high intrinsic stability, which makes them of interest them for various biotechnological applications. In this review, we aim to give an overview of all characterized carboxylic ester hydrolases from hyperthermophilic microorganisms and provide details on their substrate specificity, kinetics, optimal catalytic conditions, and stability. Approaches for the discovery of new carboxylic ester hydrolases are described. Special attention is given to the currently characterized hyperthermophilic enzymes with respect to their biochemical properties, 3D structure, and classification.
PMCID: PMC2706381  PMID: 19544040
Carboxylic ester hydrolase; Esterase; Lipase; Hyperthermophile; Biochemical properties; Structure; Classification; Review
24.  Hydrogenomics of the Extremely Thermophilic Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(21):6720-6729.
Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus is an extremely thermophilic, gram-positive anaerobe which ferments cellulose-, hemicellulose- and pectin-containing biomass to acetate, CO2, and hydrogen. Its broad substrate range, high hydrogen-producing capacity, and ability to coutilize glucose and xylose make this bacterium an attractive candidate for microbial bioenergy production. Here, the complete genome sequence of C. saccharolyticus, consisting of a 2,970,275-bp circular chromosome encoding 2,679 predicted proteins, is described. Analysis of the genome revealed that C. saccharolyticus has an extensive polysaccharide-hydrolyzing capacity for cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, and starch, coupled to a large number of ABC transporters for monomeric and oligomeric sugar uptake. The components of the Embden-Meyerhof and nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathways are all present; however, there is no evidence that an Entner-Doudoroff pathway is present. Catabolic pathways for a range of sugars, including rhamnose, fucose, arabinose, glucuronate, fructose, and galactose, were identified. These pathways lead to the production of NADH and reduced ferredoxin. NADH and reduced ferredoxin are subsequently used by two distinct hydrogenases to generate hydrogen. Whole-genome transcriptome analysis revealed that there is significant upregulation of the glycolytic pathway and an ABC-type sugar transporter during growth on glucose and xylose, indicating that C. saccharolyticus coferments these sugars unimpeded by glucose-based catabolite repression. The capacity to simultaneously process and utilize a range of carbohydrates associated with biomass feedstocks is a highly desirable feature of this lignocellulose-utilizing, biofuel-producing bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2576683  PMID: 18776029
25.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of a GTP-binding protein from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus  
A GTP-binding protein from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has been crystallized. Combined with biochemical analyses, it is expected that the structure of this protein will give insight in the function of a relatively unknown subfamily of the GTPase superfamily.
A predicted GTP-binding protein from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus, termed SsGBP, has been cloned and overexpressed in Escherichia coli. The purified protein was crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion technique in the presence of 0.05 M cadmium sulfate and 0.8 M sodium acetate pH 7.5. A single-wavelength anomalous dispersion data set was collected to a maximum resolution of 2.0 Å using a single cadmium-incorporated crystal. The crystal form belongs to space group P212121, with approximate unit-cell parameters a = 65.0, b = 72.6, c = 95.9 Å and with a monomer in the asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC2330175  PMID: 17329823
GTP-binding protein; SsGBP; Sulfolobus solfataricus

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