One of the most promising technologies to sustainably produce energy and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from combustion of fossil energy carriers is the anaerobic digestion and biomethanation of organic raw material and waste towards biogas by highly diverse microbial consortia. In this context, the microbial systems ecology of thermophilic industrial-scale biogas plants is poorly understood.
The microbial community structure of an exemplary thermophilic biogas plant was analyzed by a comprehensive approach comprising the analysis of the microbial metagenome and metatranscriptome complemented by the cultivation of hydrolytic and acido-/acetogenic Bacteria as well as methanogenic Archaea. Analysis of metagenome-derived 16S rRNA gene sequences revealed that the bacterial genera Defluviitoga (5.5 %), Halocella (3.5 %), Clostridium sensu stricto (1.9 %), Clostridium cluster III (1.5 %), and Tepidimicrobium (0.7 %) were most abundant. Among the Archaea, Methanoculleus (2.8 %) and Methanothermobacter (0.8 %) were predominant. As revealed by a metatranscriptomic 16S rRNA analysis, Defluviitoga (9.2 %), Clostridium cluster III (4.8 %), and Tepidanaerobacter (1.1 %) as well as Methanoculleus (5.7 %) mainly contributed to these sequence tags indicating their metabolic activity, whereas Hallocella (1.8 %), Tepidimicrobium (0.5 %), and Methanothermobacter (<0.1 %) were transcriptionally less active. By applying 11 different cultivation strategies, 52 taxonomically different microbial isolates representing the classes Clostridia, Bacilli, Thermotogae, Methanomicrobia and Methanobacteria were obtained. Genome analyses of isolates support the finding that, besides Clostridiumthermocellum and Clostridium stercorarium,Defluviitoga tunisiensis participated in the hydrolysis of hemicellulose producing ethanol, acetate, and H2/CO2. The latter three metabolites are substrates for hydrogentrophic and acetoclastic archaeal methanogenesis.
Obtained results showed that high abundance of microorganisms as deduced from metagenome analysis does not necessarily indicate high transcriptional or metabolic activity, and vice versa. Additionally, it appeared that the microbiome of the investigated thermophilic biogas plant comprised a huge number of up to now unknown and insufficiently characterized species.
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Anaerobic digestion; Biomethanation; Microbial community structure; Polyphasic characterization; Cellulolytic Bacteria; Acidogenic Bacteria; Acetogenic Bacteria; Methanogenic Archaea; Fragment recruitment; Culturomics
A novel cellulolytic bacterial strain was isolated from an industrial-scale biogas plant. The 16S rRNA gene sequence of the strain SD1D showed 96.4% similarity to Herbinix hemicellulosilytica T3/55T, indicating a novel species within the genus Herbinix (family Lachnospiraceae). Here, the complete genome sequence of Herbinix luporum SD1D is reported.
The novel mesophilic bacterial strain Propionispora sp. 2/2-37 was isolated from an industrial-scale biogas plant. Comparative 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that the isolate constitutes a new subcluster within the order Selenomonadales. The 2/2-37 draft genome sequence was established and provides the genetic basis for application of this microorganism in degradation of biomass for bio-fuel production.
The linear plasmid pDJ12 from Micrococcus D12, isolated from the high-altitude volcanic Diamante Lake in the northwest of Argentina, was completely sequenced and annotated. It is noteworthy that the element is probably conjugative and harbors genes potentially instrumental in coping with stress conditions that prevail in such an extreme environment.
In low-copy-number plasmids, the partitioning loci (par) act to ensure proper plasmid segregation and copy number maintenance in the daughter cells. In many bacterial species, par gene homologues are encoded on the chromosome, but their function is much less understood. In the two-replicon, polyploid genome of the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus, both the chromosome and the megaplasmid encode par gene homologues (parABc and parABm, respectively). The mode of partitioning of the two replicons and the role of the two Par systems in the replication, segregation and maintenance of the genome copies are completely unknown in this organism.
We generated a series of chromosomal and megaplasmid par mutants and sGFP reporter strains and analyzed them with respect to DNA segregation defects, genome copy number and replication origin localization. We show that the two ParB proteins specifically bind their cognate centromere-like sequences parS, and that both ParB-parS complexes localize at the cell poles. Deletion of the chromosomal parAB genes did not apparently affect the cell growth, the frequency of cells with aberrant nucleoids, or the chromosome and megaplasmid replication. In contrast, deletion of the megaplasmid parAB operon or of the parB gene was not possible, indicating essentiality of the megaplasmid-encoded Par system. A mutant expressing lower amounts of ParABm showed growth defects, a high frequency of cells with irregular nucleoids and a loss of a large portion of the megaplasmid. The truncated megaplasmid could not be partitioned appropriately, as interlinked megaplasmid molecules (catenenes) could be detected, and the ParBm-parSm complexes in this mutant lost their polar localization.
We show that in T. thermophilus the chromosomal par locus is not required for either the chromosomal or megaplasmid bulk DNA replication and segregation. In contrast, the megaplasmid Par system of T. thermophilus is needed for the proper replication and segregation of the megaplasmid, and is essential for its maintenance. The two Par sets in T. thermophilus appear to function in a replicon-specific manner. To our knowledge, this is the first analysis of Par systems in a polyploid bacterium.
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Partitioning genes (par); Thermus thermophilus; Chromosome; Megaplasmid; ParB
Functional metagenomic screening strategies, which are independent of known sequence information, can lead to the identification of truly novel genes and enzymes. Since E. coli has been used exhaustively for this purpose as a host, it is important to establish alternative expression hosts and to use them for functional metagenomic screening for new enzymes. In this study we show that Thermus thermophilus HB27 is an excellent screening host and can be used as an alternative provider of truly novel biocatalysts. In a previous study we constructed mutant strain BL03 with multiple markerless deletions in genes for major extra- and intracellular lipolytic activities. This esterase-diminished strain was no longer able to grow on defined minimal medium supplemented with tributyrin as the sole carbon source and could be used as a host to screen for metagenomic DNA fragments that could complement growth on tributyrin. Several thousand single fosmid clones from thermophilic metagenomic libraries from heated compost and hot spring water samples were subjected to a comparative screening for esterase activity in both T. thermophilus strain BL03 and E. coli EPI300. We scored a greater number of active esterase clones in the thermophilic bacterium than in the mesophilic E. coli. From several thousand functionally screened clones only two thermostable α/β-fold hydrolase enzymes with high amino acid sequence similarity to already characterized enzymes were identifiable in E. coli. In contrast, five further fosmids were found that conferred lipolytic activities in T. thermophilus only. Four open reading frames (ORFs) were found which did not share significant similarity to known esterase enzymes but contained the conserved GXSXG motif regularly found in lipolytic enzymes. Two of the genes were expressed in both hosts and the novel thermophilic esterases, which based on their primary structures could not be assigned to known esterase or lipase families, were purified and preliminarily characterized. Our work underscores the benefit of using additional screening hosts other than E. coli for the identification of novel biocatalysts with industrial relevance.
Thermus thermophiles; novel screening host; functional metagenomics; comparative screening; novel metagenomic esterases
Natural transformation has been described in bacterial species spread through nearly all major taxonomic groups. However, the current understanding of the structural components and the regulation of competence development is derived from only a few model organisms. Although natural transformation was discovered in members of the Actinobacteria (high GC Gram-positive bacteria) more than four decades ago, the structural components or the regulation of the competence system have not been studied in any representative of the entire phylum. In this report we identify a new role for a distinct type of pilus biogenesis genes (tad genes, for tight adherence), which so far have been connected only with biofilm formation, adherence and virulence traits. The tad-like genes found in the genome of Micrococcus luteus were shown to be required for genetic transformation in this actinobacterial species. We generated and analyzed individual knockout mutants for every open reading frame of the two predicted tad gene clusters as well as for a potential prepilin processing peptidase and identified the major component of the putative pili. By expressing a tagged variant of the major prepilin subunit and immunofluorescence microscopy we visualized filamentous structures extending from the cell surface. Our data indicate that the two tad gene islands complementarily contribute to the formation of a functional competence pilus in this organism. It seems likely that the involvement of tad genes in natural transformation is not unique only for M. luteus but may also prove to be the case in other representatives of the Actinobacteria, which contains important medically and biotechnologically relevant species.
natural transformation; tight adherence pili; Micrococcus luteus
Extreme habitats serve as a source of enzymes that are active under extreme conditions and are candidates for industrial applications. In this work, six large-insert mixed genomic libraries were screened for hydrolase activities in a broad temperature range (8–70°C). Among a variety of hydrolytic activities, one fosmid clone, derived from a library of pooled isolates of hyperthermophilic archaea from deep sea vents, displayed hydrolytic activity on carboxymethyl cellulose substrate plates at 70°C but not at lower temperatures. Sequence analysis of the fosmid insert revealed a gene encoding a novel glycoside hydrolase family 12 (GHF12) endo-1,4-β-glucanase, termed Cel12E. The enzyme shares 45% sequence identity with a protein from the archaeon Thermococcus sp. AM4 and displays a unique multidomain architecture. Biochemical characterization of Cel12E revealed a remarkably thermostable protein, which appears to be of archaeal origin. The enzyme displayed maximum activity at 92°C and was active on a variety of linear 1,4-β-glucans like carboxymethyl cellulose, β-glucan, lichenan, and phosphoric acid swollen cellulose. The protein is able to bind to various insoluble β-glucans. Product pattern analysis indicated that Cel12E is an endo-cleaving β-glucanase. Cel12E expands the toolbox of hyperthermostable archaeal cellulases with biotechnological potential.
functional screenings; extreme thermostable protein; archaeal endoglucanase; enzymatic characterization
PCR-ribotyping is a broadly used method for the classification of isolates of Clostridium difficile, an emerging intestinal pathogen, causing infections with increased disease severity and incidence in several European and North American countries. We have now carried out clustering analysis with selected genes of numerous C. difficile strains as well as gene content comparisons of their genomes in order to broaden our view of the relatedness of strains assigned to different ribotypes. We analyzed the genomic content of 48 C. difficile strains representing 21 different ribotypes. The calculation of distance matrix-based dendrograms using the neighbor joining method for 14 conserved genes (standard phylogenetic marker genes) from the genomes of the C. difficile strains demonstrated that the genes from strains with the same ribotype generally clustered together. Further, certain ribotypes always clustered together and formed ribotype groups, i.e. ribotypes 078, 033 and 126, as well as ribotypes 002 and 017, indicating their relatedness. Comparisons of the gene contents of the genomes of ribotypes that clustered according to the conserved gene analysis revealed that the number of common genes of the ribotypes belonging to each of these three ribotype groups were very similar for the 078/033/126 group (at most 69 specific genes between the different strains with the same ribotype) but less similar for the 002/017 group (86 genes difference). It appears that the ribotype is indicative not only of a specific pattern of the amplified 16S–23S rRNA intergenic spacer but also reflects specific differences in the nucleotide sequences of the conserved genes studied here. It can be anticipated that the sequence deviations of more genes of C. difficile strains are correlated with their PCR-ribotype. In conclusion, the results of this study corroborate and extend the concept of clonal C. difficile lineages, which correlate with ribotypes affiliation.
Clostridium saccharobutylicum was employed for the production of acetone and butanol in South Africa until the 1970s. The genome comprises a single replicon (5,107,814 bp) harboring all the genes necessary for solvent production and the degradation of various organic compounds, such as fructose, cellobiose, sucrose, and mannose.
Clostridium stercorarium strain DSM 8532 is a thermophilic bacterium capable of efficiently degrading polysaccharides in plant biomass and converting the resulting sugars to ethanol and acetate. The complete genome sequence of 2.96 Mbp reveals a multitude of genes for hydrolytic enzymes and enables further study of the organism and its enzymes, and their exploitation for biotechnological processes.
The increasing production of synthetic and natural poly(cis-1,4-isoprene) rubber leads to huge challenges in waste management. Only a few bacteria are known to degrade rubber, and little is known about the mechanism of microbial rubber degradation. The genome of Gordonia polyisoprenivorans strain VH2, which is one of the most effective rubber-degrading bacteria, was sequenced and annotated to elucidate the degradation pathway and other features of this actinomycete. The genome consists of a circular chromosome of 5,669,805 bp and a circular plasmid of 174,494 bp with average GC contents of 67.0% and 65.7%, respectively. It contains 5,110 putative protein-coding sequences, including many candidate genes responsible for rubber degradation and other biotechnically relevant pathways. Furthermore, we detected two homologues of a latex-clearing protein, which is supposed to be a key enzyme in rubber degradation. The deletion of these two genes for the first time revealed clear evidence that latex-clearing protein is essential for the microbial utilization of rubber. Based on the genome sequence, we predict a pathway for the microbial degradation of rubber which is supported by previous and current data on transposon mutagenesis, deletion mutants, applied comparative genomics, and literature search.
Spirochaeta thermophila is a thermophilic, free-living, and cellulolytic anaerobe. The genome sequence data for this organism have revealed a high density of genes encoding enzymes from more than 30 glycoside hydrolase (GH) families and a noncellulosomal enzyme system for (hemi)cellulose degradation. Functional screening of a fosmid library whose inserts were mapped on the S. thermophila genome sequence allowed the functional annotation of numerous GH open reading frames (ORFs). Seven different GH ORFs from the S. thermophila DSM 6192 genome, all putative β-glycanase ORFs according to sequence similarity analysis, contained a highly conserved novel GH-associated module of unknown function at their C terminus. Four of these GH enzymes were experimentally verified as xylanase, β-glucanase, β-glucanase/carboxymethylcellulase (CMCase), and CMCase. Binding experiments performed with the recombinantly expressed and purified GH-associated module showed that it represents a new carbohydrate-binding module (CBM) that binds to microcrystalline cellulose and is highly specific for this substrate. In the course of this work, the new CBM type was only detected in Spirochaeta, but recently we found sequences with detectable similarity to the module in the draft genomes of Cytophaga fermentans and Mahella australiensis, both of which are phylogenetically very distant from S. thermophila and noncellulolytic, yet inhabit similar environments. This suggests a possibly broad distribution of the module in nature.
Picrophilus oshimae and Picrophilus torridus are free-living, moderately thermophilic and acidophilic organisms from the lineage of Euryarchaeota. With a pH optimum of growth at pH 0.7 and the ability to even withstand molar concentrations of sulphuric acid, these organisms represent the most extreme acidophiles known. So far, nothing is known about plasmid biology in these hyperacidophiles. Also, there are no genetic tools available for this genus. We have mobilized the 7.6 Kbp plasmid from P. oshimae in E. coli by introducing origin-containing transposons and described the plasmid in terms of its nucleotide sequence, copy number in the native host, mode of replication, and transcriptional start sites of the encoded ORFs. Plasmid pPO1 may encode a restriction/modification system in addition to its replication functions. The information gained from the pPO1 plasmid may prove useful in developing a cloning system for this group of extreme acidophiles.
Sourdough has played a significant role in human nutrition and culture for thousands of years and is still of eminent importance for human diet and the bakery industry. Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis is the predominant key bacterium in traditionally fermented sourdoughs.
The genome of L. sanfranciscensis TMW 1.1304 isolated from an industrial sourdough fermentation was sequenced with a combined Sanger/454-pyrosequencing approach followed by gap closing by walking on fosmids. The sequencing data revealed a circular chromosomal sequence of 1,298,316 bp and two additional plasmids, pLS1 and pLS2, with sizes of 58,739 bp and 18,715 bp, which are predicted to encode 1,437, 63 and 19 orfs, respectively. The overall GC content of the chromosome is 34.71%. Several specific features appear to contribute to the ability of L. sanfranciscensis to outcompete other bacteria in the fermentation. L. sanfranciscensis contains the smallest genome within the lactobacilli and the highest density of ribosomal RNA operons per Mbp genome among all known genomes of free-living bacteria, which is important for the rapid growth characteristics of the organism. A high frequency of gene inactivation and elimination indicates a process of reductive evolution. The biosynthetic capacity for amino acids scarcely availably in cereals and exopolysaccharides reveal the molecular basis for an autochtonous sourdough organism with potential for further exploitation in functional foods. The presence of two CRISPR/cas loci versus a high number of transposable elements suggests recalcitrance to gene intrusion and high intrinsic genome plasticity.
Spirochaeta thermophila is a thermophilic, free-living anaerobe that is able to degrade various α- and β-linked sugar polymers, including cellulose. We report here the complete genome sequence of S. thermophila DSM 6192, which is the first genome sequence of a thermophilic, free-living member of the Spirochaetes phylum. The genome data reveal a high density of genes encoding enzymes from more than 30 glycoside hydrolase families, a noncellulosomal enzyme system for (hemi)cellulose degradation, and indicate the presence of a novel carbohydrate-binding module.
Anthrax is a fatal disease caused by strains of Bacillus anthracis. Members of this monophyletic species are non motile and are all characterized by the presence of four prophages and a nonsense mutation in the plcR regulator gene. Here we report the complete genome sequence of a Bacillus strain isolated from a chimpanzee that had died with clinical symptoms of anthrax. Unlike classic B. anthracis, this strain was motile and lacked the four prohages and the nonsense mutation. Four replicons were identified, a chromosome and three plasmids. Comparative genome analysis revealed that the chromosome resembles those of non-B. anthracis members of the Bacillus cereus group, whereas two plasmids were identical to the anthrax virulence plasmids pXO1 and pXO2. The function of the newly discovered third plasmid with a length of 14 kbp is unknown. A detailed comparison of genomic loci encoding key features confirmed a higher similarity to B. thuringiensis serovar konkukian strain 97-27 and B. cereus E33L than to B. anthracis strains. For the first time we describe the sequence of an anthrax causing bacterium possessing both anthrax plasmids that apparently does not belong to the monophyletic group of all so far known B. anthracis strains and that differs in important diagnostic features. The data suggest that this bacterium has evolved from a B. cereus strain independently from the classic B. anthracis strains and established a B. anthracis lifestyle. Therefore we suggest to designate this isolate as “B. cereus variety (var.) anthracis”.
An esterase which is encoded within a Thermotoga maritima chromosomal gene cluster for xylan degradation and utilization was characterized after heterologous expression of the corresponding gene in Escherichia coli and purification of the enzyme. The enzyme, designated AxeA, shares amino acid sequence similarity and its broad substrate specificity with the acetyl xylan esterase from Bacillus pumilus, the cephalosporin C deacetylase from Bacillus subtilis, and other (putative) esterases, allowing its classification as a member of carbohydrate esterase family 7. The recombinant enzyme displayed activity with p‐nitrophenyl‐acetate as well as with various acetylated sugar substrates such as glucose penta‐acetate, acetylated oat spelts xylan and DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide)‐extracted beechwood xylan, and with cephalosporin C. Thermotoga maritimaAxeA represents the most thermostable acetyl xylan esterase known to date. In a 10 min assay at its optimum pH of 6.5 the enzyme's activity peaked at 90°C. The inactivation half‐life of AxeA at a protein concentration of 0.3 µg µl−1 in the absence of substrate was about 13 h at 98°C and about 67 h at 90°C. Differential scanning calorimetry analysis of the thermal stability of AxeA corroborated its extreme heat resistance. A multi‐phasic unfolding behaviour was found, with two apparent exothermic peaks at approximately 100–104°C and 107.5°C. In accordance with the crystal structure, gel filtration analysis at ambient temperature revealed that the enzyme has as a homohexameric oligomerization state, but a dimeric form was also found.
The cellular localization and processing of the endo-xylanases (1,4-β-d-xylan-xylanohydrolase; EC 22.214.171.124) of the hyperthermophile Thermotoga maritima were investigated, in particular with respect to the unusual outer membrane (“toga”) of this gram-negative bacterium. XynB (40 kDa) was detected in the periplasmic fraction of T. maritima cells and in the culture supernatant. XynA (120 kDa) was partially released to the surrounding medium, but most XynA remained cell associated. Immunogold labeling of thin sections revealed that cell-bound XynA was localized mainly in the outer membranes of T. maritima cells. Amino-terminal sequencing of purified membrane-bound XynA revealed processing of the signal peptide after the eighth residue, thereby leaving the hydrophobic core of the signal peptide attached to the enzyme. This mode of processing is reminiscent of type IV prepilin signal peptide cleavage. Removal of the entire XynA signal peptide was necessary for release from the cell because enzyme purified from the culture supernatant lacked 44 residues at the N terminus, including the hydrophobic part of the signal peptide. We conclude that toga association of XynA is mediated by residues 9 to 44 of the signal peptide. The biochemical and electron microscopic localization studies together with the amino-terminal processing data indicate that XynA is held at the cell surface of T. maritima via a hydrophobic peptide anchor, which is highly unusual for an outer membrane protein.
The genes encoding a putative α-glucosidase (aglA) and an α-mannosidase (manA) appear to be physically clustered in the genome of the extreme acidophile Picrophilus torridus, a situation not found previously in any other organism possessing aglA or manA homologs. While archaeal α-glucosidases have been described, no α-mannosidase enzymes from the archaeal kingdom have been reported previously. Transcription start site mapping and Northern blot analysis revealed that despite their colinear orientation and the small intergenic space, the genes are independently transcribed, both producing leaderless mRNA. aglA and manA were cloned and overexpressed in Escherichia coli, and the purified recombinant enzymes were characterized with respect to their physicochemical and biochemical properties. AglA displayed strict substrate specificity and hydrolyzed maltose, as well as longer α-1,4-linked maltooligosaccharides. ManA, on the other hand, hydrolyzed all possible linkage types of α-glycosidically linked mannose disaccharides and was able to hydrolyze α3,α6-mannopentaose, which represents the core structure of many triantennary N-linked carbohydrates in glycoproteins. The probable physiological role of the two enzymes in the utilization of exogenous glycoproteins and/or in the turnover of the organism's own glycoproteins is discussed.
The gene for a novel α-amylase, designated AmyC, from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima was cloned and heterologously overexpressed in Escherichia coli. The putative intracellular enzyme had no amino acid sequence similarity to glycoside hydrolase family (GHF) 13 α-amylases, yet the range of substrate hydrolysis and the product profile clearly define the protein as an α-amylase. Based on sequence similarity AmyC belongs to a subgroup within GHF 57. On the basis of amino acid sequence similarity, Glu185 and Asp349 could be identified as the catalytic residues of AmyC. Using a 60-min assay, the maximum hydrolytic activity of the purified enzyme, which was dithiothreitol dependent, was found to be at 90°C. AmyC displayed a remarkably high pH optimum of pH 8.5 and an unusual sensitivity towards both ATP and EDTA.
Two α-amylase genes from the thermophilic alkaliphile Anaerobranca gottschalkii were cloned, and the corresponding enzymes, AmyA and AmyB, were investigated after purification of the recombinant proteins. Based on their amino acid sequences, AmyA is proposed to be a lipoprotein with extracellular localization and thus is exposed to the alkaline milieu, while AmyB apparently represents a cytoplasmic enzyme. The amino acid sequences of both enzymes bear high similarity to those of GHF13 proteins. The different cellular localizations of AmyA and AmyB are reflected in their physicochemical properties. The alkaline pH optimum (pH 8), as well as the broad pH range, of AmyA activity (more than 50% activity between pH 6 and pH 9.5) mirrors the conditions that are encountered by an extracellular enzyme exposed to the medium of A. gottschalkii, which grows between pH 6 and pH 10.5. AmyB, on the other hand, has a narrow pH range with a slightly acidic pH optimum at 6 to 6.5, which is presumably close to the pH in the cytoplasm. Also, the intracellular AmyB is less tolerant of high temperatures than the extracellular AmyA. While AmyA has a half-life of 48 h at 70°C, AmyB has a half-life of only about 10 min at that temperature, perhaps due to the lack of stabilizing constituents of the cytoplasm. AmyA and AmyB were very similar with respect to their substrate specificity profiles, clearly preferring amylose over amylopectin, pullulan, and glycogen. Both enzymes also hydrolyzed α-, β-, and γ-cyclodextrin. Very interestingly, AmyA, but not AmyB, displayed high transglycosylation activity on maltooligosaccharides and also had significant β-cyclodextrin glycosyltransferase (CGTase) activity. CGTase activity has not been reported for typical α-amylases before. The mechanism of cyclodextrin formation by AmyA is unknown.
The gene encoding a type I pullulanase was identified from the genome sequence of the anaerobic thermoalkaliphilic bacterium Anaerobranca gottschalkii. In addition, the homologous gene was isolated from a gene library of Anaerobranca horikoshii and sequenced. The proteins encoded by these two genes showed 39% amino acid sequence identity to the pullulanases from the thermophilic anaerobic bacteria Fervidobacterium pennivorans and Thermotoga maritima. The pullulanase gene from A. gottschalkii (encoding 865 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 98 kDa) was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli strain BL21(DE3) so that the protein did not have the signal peptide. Accordingly, the molecular mass of the purified recombinant pullulanase (rPulAg) was 96 kDa. Pullulan hydrolysis activity was optimal at pH 8.0 and 70°C, and under these physicochemical conditions the half-life of rPulAg was 22 h. By using an alternative expression strategy in E. coli Tuner(DE3)(pLysS), the pullulanase gene from A. gottschalkii, including its signal peptide-encoding sequence, was cloned. In this case, the purified recombinant enzyme was a truncated 70-kDa form (rPulAg′). The N-terminal sequence of purified rPulAg′ was found 252 amino acids downstream from the start site, presumably indicating that there was alternative translation initiation or N-terminal protease cleavage by E. coli. Interestingly, most of the physicochemical properties of rPulAg′ were identical to those of rPulAg. Both enzymes degraded pullulan via an endo-type mechanism, yielding maltotriose as the final product, and hydrolytic activity was also detected with amylopectin, starch, β-limited dextrins, and glycogen but not with amylose. This substrate specificity is typical of type I pullulanases. rPulAg was inhibited by cyclodextrins, whereas addition of mono- or bivalent cations did not have a stimulating effect. In addition, rPulAg′ was stable in the presence of 0.5% sodium dodecyl sulfate, 20% Tween, and 50% Triton X-100. The pullulanase from A. gottschalkii is the first thermoalkalistable type I pullulanase that has been described.
Enrichment cultures of microbial consortia enable the diverse metabolic and catabolic activities of these populations to be studied on a molecular level and to be explored as potential sources for biotechnology processes. We have used a combined approach of enrichment culture and direct cloning to construct cosmid libraries with large (>30-kb) inserts from microbial consortia. Enrichment cultures were inoculated with samples from five environments, and high amounts of avidin were added to the cultures to favor growth of biotin-producing microbes. DNA was extracted from three of these enrichment cultures and used to construct cosmid libraries; each library consisted of between 6,000 and 35,000 clones, with an average insert size of 30 to 40 kb. The inserts contained a diverse population of genomic DNA fragments isolated from the consortia organisms. These three libraries were used to complement the Escherichia coli biotin auxotrophic strain ATCC 33767 Δ(bio-uvrB). Initial screens resulted in the isolation of seven different complementing cosmid clones, carrying biotin biosynthesis operons. Biotin biosynthesis capabilities and growth under defined conditions of four of these clones were studied. Biotin measured in the different culture supernatants ranged from 42 to 3,800 pg/ml/optical density unit. Sequencing the identified biotin synthesis genes revealed high similarities to bio operons from gram-negative bacteria. In addition, random sequencing identified other interesting open reading frames, as well as two operons, the histidine utilization operon (hut), and the cluster of genes involved in biosynthesis of molybdopterin cofactors in bacteria (moaABCDE).