The Aquatic Biosystems editorial team would like to thank the following colleagues who contributed to peer review for the journal in 2013.
Gas vesicles are hollow, buoyant organelles bounded by a thin and extremely stable protein membrane. They are coded by a cluster of gvp genes in the halophilic archaeon, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1. Using an expression vector containing the entire gvp gene cluster, gas vesicle nanoparticles (GVNPs) have been successfully bioengineered for antigen display by constructing gene fusions between the gvpC gene and coding sequences from bacterial and viral pathogens.
To improve and streamline the genetic system for bioengineering of GVNPs, we first constructed a strain of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 deleted solely for the gvpC gene. The deleted strain contained smaller, more spindle-shaped nanoparticles observable by transmission electron microscopy, confirming a shape-determining role for GvpC in gas vesicle biogenesis. Next, we constructed expression plasmids containing N-terminal coding portions or the complete gvpC gene. After introducing the expression plasmids into the Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 ΔgvpC strain, GvpC protein and variants were localized to the GVNPs by Western blotting analysis and their effects on increasing the size and shape of nanoparticles established by electron microscopy. Finally, a synthetic gene coding for Gaussia princeps luciferase was fused to the gvpC gene fragments on expression plasmids, resulting in an enzymatically active GvpC-luciferase fusion protein bound to the buoyant nanoparticles from Halobacterium.
GvpC protein and its N-terminal fragments expressed from plasmid constructs complemented a Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 ΔgvpC strain and bound to buoyant GVNPs. Fusion of the luciferase reporter gene from Gaussia princeps to the gvpC gene derivatives in expression plasmids produced GVNPs with enzymatically active luciferase bound. These results establish a significantly improved genetic system for displaying foreign proteins on Halobacterium gas vesicles and extend the bioengineering potential of these novel nanoparticles to catalytically active enzymes.
Vaccine; Halophiles; Archaea; Luciferase
As part of a comprehensive postgenomic investigation of the model archaeon Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1, we used whole-genome DNA microarrays to compare transcriptional profiles of cells grown under anaerobic or aerobic conditions. When anaerobic growth supported by arginine fermentation was compared to aerobic growth, genes for arginine fermentation (arc) and anaerobic respiration (dms), using trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) as the terminal electron acceptor, were highly upregulated, as was the bop gene, required for phototrophic growth. When arginine fermentation was compared to anaerobic respiration with TMAO, the arc and dms genes were both induced with arginine, while TMAO induced the bop gene and major gas vesicle protein (gvpAC) genes specifying buoyant gas vesicles. Anaerobic conditions with either TMAO or arginine also upregulated the cba genes, encoding one of three cytochrome oxidases. In-frame deletion of two COG3413 family regulatory genes, bat and dmsR, showed downregulation of the bop gene cluster and loss of purple membrane synthesis and downregulation of the dms operon and loss of anaerobic respiration capability, respectively. Bioinformatic analysis identified additional regulatory and sensor genes that are likely involved in the full range of cellular responses to oxygen limitation. Our results show that the Halobacterium sp. has evolved a carefully orchestrated set of responses to oxygen limitation. As conditions become more reducing, cells progressively increase buoyancy, as well as capabilities for phototrophy, scavenging of molecular oxygen, anaerobic respiration, and fermentation.
The halophilic Archaeon Halorubrum lacusprofundi, isolated from the perennially cold and hypersaline Deep Lake in Antarctica, was recently sequenced and compared to 12 Haloarchaea from temperate climates by comparative genomics. Amino acid substitutions for 604 H. lacusprofundi proteins belonging to conserved haloarchaeal orthologous groups (cHOGs) were determined and found to occur at 7.85% of positions invariant in proteins from mesophilic Haloarchaea. The following substitutions were observed most frequently: (a) glutamic acid with aspartic acid or alanine; (b) small polar residues with other small polar or non-polar amino acids; (c) small non-polar residues with other small non-polar residues; (d) aromatic residues, especially tryptophan, with other aromatic residues; and (e) some larger polar residues with other similar residues. Amino acid substitutions for a cold-active H. lacusprofundi β-galactosidase were then examined in the context of a homology modeled structure at residues invariant in homologous enzymes from mesophilic Haloarchaea. Similar substitutions were observed as in the genome-wide approach, with the surface accessible regions of β-galactosidase displaying reduced acidity and increased hydrophobicity, and internal regions displaying mainly subtle changes among smaller non-polar and polar residues. These findings are consistent with H. lacusprofundi proteins displaying amino acid substitutions that increase structural flexibility and protein function at low temperature. We discuss the likely mechanisms of protein adaptation to a cold, hypersaline environment on Earth, with possible relevance to life elsewhere.
Halorubrum lacusprofundi is a cold-adapted halophilic archaeon isolated from Deep Lake, a perennially cold and hypersaline lake in Antarctica. Its genome sequencing project was recently completed, providing access to many genes predicted to encode polyextremophilic enzymes active in both extremely high salinity and cold temperatures.
Analysis of the genome sequence of H. lacusprofundi showed a gene cluster for carbohydrate utilization containing a glycoside hydrolase family 42 β-galactosidase gene, named bga. In order to study the biochemical properties of the β-galactosidase enzyme, the bga gene was PCR amplified, cloned, and expressed in the genetically tractable haloarchaeon Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 under the control of a cold shock protein (cspD2) gene promoter. The recombinant β-galactosidase protein was produced at 20-fold higher levels compared to H. lacusprofundi, purified using gel filtration and hydrophobic interaction chromatography, and identified by SDS-PAGE, LC-MS/MS, and ONPG hydrolysis activity. The purified enzyme was found to be active over a wide temperature range (−5 to 60°C) with an optimum of 50°C, and 10% of its maximum activity at 4°C. The enzyme also exhibited extremely halophilic character, with maximal activity in either 4 M NaCl or KCl. The polyextremophilic β-galactosidase was also stable and active in 10–20% alcohol-aqueous solutions, containing methanol, ethanol, n-butanol, or isoamyl alcohol.
The H. lacusprofundi β-galactosidase is a polyextremophilic enzyme active in high salt concentrations and low and high temperature. The enzyme is also active in aqueous-organic mixed solvents, with potential applications in synthetic chemistry. H. lacuprofundi proteins represent a significant biotechnology resource and for developing insights into enzyme catalysis under water limiting conditions. This study provides a system for better understanding how H. lacusprofundi is successful in a perennially cold, hypersaline environment, with relevance to astrobiology.
Polyextremophiles; Extremozymes; Protein stability; Halophiles; Psychrophiles; Biofuels
Enzymes from extremophilic microorganisms usually catalyze chemical reactions in non-standard conditions. Such conditions promote aggregation, precipitation, and denaturation, reducing the activity of most non-extremophilic enzymes, frequently due to the absence of sufficient hydration. Some extremophilic enzymes maintain a tight hydration shell and remain active in solution even when liquid water is limiting, e.g. in the presence of high ionic concentrations, or at cold temperature when water is close to the freezing point. Extremophilic enzymes are able to compete for hydration via alterations especially to their surface through greater surface charges and increased molecular motion. These properties have enabled some extremophilic enzymes to function in the presence of non-aqueous organic solvents, with potential for design of useful catalysts. In this review, we summarize the current state of knowledge of extremophilic enzymes functioning in high salinity and cold temperatures, focusing on their strategy for function at low water activity. We discuss how the understanding of extremophilic enzyme function is leading to the design of a new generation of enzyme catalysts and their applications to biotechnology.
Extremophile; Extremozymes; Protein stability; Halophiles; Psychrophile; Cold activity; Organic solvent; Low temperature; High salinity; Biofuel; Bioenergy
Aquatic biological systems are a critical part of the structure and function of earth's biosphere. While attention of the scientific community is often focused on the reaction of biological systems to changes in the environment, these systems also have profound effects, or actions, on the environment. Throughout the evolutionary history of earth, the rise and/or fall of different aquatic biosystems has impacted the character of the biosphere. At no time have environmental changes been more important to all life on earth than in the modern era, which underscores the need for the new journal, Aquatic Biosystems. We welcome submission of original research manuscripts, reviews, and commentaries to the journal.
Since the first genome of a halophilic archaeon was sequenced in 2000, biologists have been advancing the understanding of genomic characteristics that allow for survival in the harsh natural environments of these organisms. An increase in protein acidity and GC-bias in the genome have been implicated as factors in tolerance to extreme salinity, desiccation, and high solar radiation. However, few previous attempts have been made to identify novel genes that would permit survival in such extreme conditions.
With the recent release of several new complete haloarchaeal genome sequences, we have conducted a comprehensive comparative genomic analysis focusing on the identification of unique haloarchaeal conserved proteins that likely play key roles in environmental adaptation. Using bioinformatic methods, we have clustered 31,312 predicted proteins from nine haloarchaeal genomes into 4,455 haloarchaeal orthologous groups (HOGs). We assigned likely functions by association with established COG and KOG databases in NCBI. After identifying homologs in four additional haloarchaeal genomes, we determined that there were 784 core haloarchaeal protein clusters (cHOGs), of which 83 clusters were found primarily in haloarchaea. Further analysis found that 55 clusters were truly unique (tucHOGs) to haloarchaea and qualify as signature proteins while 28 were nearly unique (nucHOGs), the vast majority of which were coded for on the haloarchaeal chromosomes. Of the signature proteins, only one example with any predicted function, Ral, involved in desiccation/radiation tolerance in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, was identified. Among the core clusters, 33% was predicted to function in metabolism, 25% in information transfer and storage, 10% in cell processes and signaling, and 22% belong to poorly characterized or general function groups.
Our studies have established conserved groups of nearly 800 protein clusters present in all haloarchaea, with a subset of 55 which are predicted to be accessory proteins that may be critical or essential for success in an extreme environment. These studies support core and signature genes and proteins as valuable concepts for understanding phylogenetic and phenotypic characteristics of coherent groups of organisms.
Complete genome sequencing together with post-genomic studies provide the opportunity for a comprehensive 'systems biology' understanding of model organisms. For maximum effectiveness, an integrated database containing genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data is necessary.
To improve data access and facilitate functional genomic studies on haloarchaea in our laboratory, a dedicated database and website, named HaloWeb, was developed. It incorporates all finished and publicly released haloarchaeal genomes, including gene, protein and RNA sequences and annotation data, as well as other features such as insertion element sequences. The HaloWeb database was designed for easy data access and mining, and includes tools for tasks such as genome map generation, sequence extraction, and sequence editing. Popular resources at other sites, e.g., NCBI PubMed and BLAST, COG and KOG protein clusters, KEGG pathways, and GTOP structures were dynamically linked. The HaloWeb site is located at http://halo4.umbi.umd.edu, and at a mirror site, http://halo5.umbi.umd.edu, with all public genomic data and NCBI, KEGG, and GTOP links available for use by the academic community. The database is curated and updated on a regular basis.
The HaloWeb site includes all completely sequenced haloarchaeal genomes from public databases. It is currently being used as a tool for comparative genomics, including analysis of gene and genome structure, organization, and function. The database and website are up-to-date resources for researchers worldwide.
The eukaryote-like DNA replication system of the model haloarchaeon Halobacterium NRC-1 is encoded within a circular chromosome and two large megaplasmids or minichromosomes, pNRC100 and pNRC200. We previously showed by genetic analysis that 2 (orc2 and orc10) of the 10 genes coding for Orc-Cdc6 replication initiator proteins were essential, while a third (orc7), located near a highly conserved autonomously replicating sequence, oriC1, was nonessential for cell viability. Here we used whole-genome marker frequency analysis (MFA) and found multiple peaks, indicative of multiple replication origins. The largest chromosomal peaks were located proximal to orc7 (oriC1) and orc10 (oriC2), and the largest peaks on the extrachromosomal elements were near orc9 (oriP1) in both pNRC100 and -200 and near orc4 (oriP2) in pNRC200. MFA of deletion strains containing different combinations of chromosomal orc genes showed that replication initiation at oriC1 requires orc7 but not orc6 and orc8. The initiation sites at oriC1 were determined by replication initiation point analysis and found to map divergently within and near an AT-rich element flanked by likely Orc binding sites. The oriC1 region, Orc binding sites, and orc7 gene orthologs were conserved in all sequenced haloarchaea. Serial deletion of orc genes resulted in the construction of a minimal strain containing not only orc2 and orc10 but also orc9. Our results suggest that replication in this model system is intriguing and more complex than previously thought. We discuss these results from the perspective of the replication strategy and evolution of haloarchaeal genomes.
Most studies of the transcriptional response to UV radiation in living cells have used UV doses that are much higher than those encountered in the natural environment, and most focus on short-wave UV (UV-C) at 254 nm, a wavelength that never reaches the Earth's surface. We have studied the transcriptional response of the sunlight-tolerant model archaeon, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, to low doses of mid-wave UV (UV-B) to assess its response to UV radiation that is likely to be more biologically relevant.
Halobacterium NRC-1 cells were irradiated with UV-B at doses equivalent to 30 J/m2 and 5 J/m2 of UV-C. Transcriptional profiling showed that only 11 genes were up-regulated 1.5-fold or more by both UV-B doses. The most strongly up-regulated gene was radA1 (vng2473), the archaeal homologue of RAD51/recA recombinase. The others included arj1 (vng779) (recJ-like exonuclease), top6A (vng884) and top6B (vng885) (coding for Topoisomerase VI subunits), and nrdJ (vng1644) (which encodes a subunit of ribonucleotide reductase). We have found that four of the consistently UV-B up-regulated genes, radA1 (vng2473), vng17, top6B (vng885) and vng280, share a common 11-base pair motif in their promoter region, TTTCACTTTCA. Similar sequences were found in radA promoters in other halophilic archaea, as well as in the radA promoter of Methanospirillum hungatei. We analysed the transcriptional response of a repair-deficient ΔuvrA (vng2636) ΔuvrC (vng2381) double-deletion mutant and found common themes between it and the response in repair proficient cells.
Our results show a core set of genes is consistently up-regulated after exposure to UV-B light at low, biologically relevant doses. Eleven genes were up-regulated, in wild-type cells, after two UV-B doses (comparable to UV-C doses of 30 J/m2 and 5 J/m2), and only four genes were up-regulated by all doses of UV-B and UV-C that we have used in this work and previously. These results suggest that high doses of UV-C radiation do not necessarily provide a good model for the natural response to environmental UV. We have found an 11-base pair motif upstream of the TATA box in four of the UV-B up-regulated genes and suggest that this motif is the binding site for a transcriptional regulator involved in their response to UV damage in this model archaeon.
The consistent use of the taxonomic system of binomial nomenclature (genus and species) was first popularized by Linnaeus nearly three-hundred years ago to classify mainly plants and animals. His main goal was to give labels that would ensure that biologists could agree on which organism was under investigation. One-hundred fifty years later, Darwin considered the term species as one of convenience and not essentially different from variety. In the modern era, exploration of the world's niches together with advances in genomics have expanded the number of named species to over 1.8 million, including many microorganisms. However, even this large number excludes over 90% of microorganisms that have yet to be cultured or classified. In naming new isolates in the microbial world, the challenge remains the lack of a universally held and evenly applied standard for a species. The definition of species based on the capacity to form fertile offspring is not applicable to microorganisms and 70% DNA-DNA hybridization appears rather crude in light of the many completed genome sequences. The popular phylogenetic marker, 16S rRNA, is tricky for classification since it does not provide multiple characteristics or phenotypes used classically for this purpose. Using most criteria, agreement may usually be found at the genus level, but species level distinctions are problematic. These observations lend credence to the proposal that the species concept is flawed when applied to prokaryotes. In order to address this topic, we have examined the taxonomy of extremely halophilic Archaea, where the order, family, and even a genus designation have become obsolete, and the naming and renaming of certain species has led to much confusion in the scientific community.
Multiple general transcription factors (GTFs), TBP and TFB, are present in many haloarchaea, and are deemed to accomplish global gene regulation. However, details and the role of GTF-directed transcriptional regulation in stress response are still not clear. Here, we report a comprehensive investigation of the regulatory mechanism of a heat-induced gene (hsp5) from Halobacterium salinarum. We demonstrated by mutation analysis that the sequences 5′ and 3′ to the core elements (TATA box and BRE) of the hsp5 promoter (Phsp5) did not significantly affect the basal and heat-induced gene expression, as long as the transcription initiation site was not altered. Moreover, the BRE and TATA box of Phsp5 were sufficient to render a nonheat-responsive promoter heat-inducible, in both Haloferax volcanii and Halobacterium sp. NRC-1. DNA–protein interactions revealed that two heat-inducible GTFs, TFB2 from H. volcanii and TFBb from Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, could specifically bind to Phsp5 likely in a temperature-dependent manner. Taken together, the heat-responsiveness of Phsp5 was mainly ascribed to the core promoter elements that were efficiently recognized by specific heat-induced GTFs at elevated temperature, thus providing a new paradigm for GTF-directed gene regulation in the domain of Archaea.
Archaea are abundant and drive critical microbial processes in the Earth's cold biosphere. Despite this, not enough is known about the molecular mechanisms of cold adaptation and no biochemical studies have been performed on stenopsychrophilic archaea (e.g., Methanogenium frigidum). This study examined the structural and functional properties of cold shock proteins (Csps) from archaea, including biochemical analysis of the Csp from M. frigidum. csp genes are present in most bacteria and some eucarya but absent from most archaeal genome sequences, most notably, those of all archaeal thermophiles and hyperthermophiles. In bacteria, Csps are small, nucleic acid binding proteins involved in a variety of cellular processes, such as transcription. In this study, archaeal Csp function was assessed by examining the ability of csp genes from psychrophilic and mesophilic Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota to complement a cold-sensitive growth defect in Escherichia coli. In addition, an archaeal gene with a cold shock domain (CSD) fold but little sequence identity to Csps was also examined. Genes encoding Csps or a CSD structural analog from three psychrophilic archaea rescued the E. coli growth defect. The three proteins were predicted to have a higher content of solvent-exposed basic residues than the noncomplementing proteins, and the basic residues were located on the nucleic acid binding surface, similar to their arrangement in E. coli CspA. The M. frigidum Csp was purified and found to be a single-domain protein that folds by a reversible two-state mechanism and to exhibit a low conformational stability typical of cold-adapted proteins. Moreover, M. frigidum Csp was characterized as binding E. coli single-stranded RNA, consistent with its ability to complement function in E. coli. The studies show that some Csp and CSD fold proteins have retained sufficient similarity throughout evolution in the Archaea to be able to function effectively in the Bacteria and that the function of the archaeal proteins relates to cold adaptation. The initial biochemical analysis of M. frigidum Csp has developed a platform for further characterization and demonstrates the potential for expanding molecular studies of proteins from this important archaeal stenopsychrophile.
Archaea are prokaryotic organisms with simplified versions of eukaryotic transcription systems. Genes coding for the general transcription factors TBP and TFB are present in multiple copies in several Archaea, including Halobacterium sp. NRC-1. Multiple TBP and TFBs have been proposed to participate in transcription of genes via recognition and recruitment of RNA polymerase to different classes of promoters.
We attempted to knock out all six TBP and seven TFB genes in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 using the ura3-based gene deletion system. Knockouts were obtained for six out of thirteen genes, tbpCDF and tfbACG, indicating that they are not essential for cell viability under standard conditions. Screening of a population of 1,000 candidate mutants showed that genes which did not yield mutants contained less that 0.1% knockouts, strongly suggesting that they are essential. The transcriptomes of two mutants, ΔtbpD and ΔtfbA, were compared to the parental strain and showed coordinate down regulation of many genes. Over 500 out of 2,677 total genes were regulated in the ΔtbpD and ΔtfbA mutants with 363 regulated in both, indicating that over 10% of genes in both strains require the action of both TbpD and TfbA for normal transcription. Culturing studies on the ΔtbpD and ΔtfbA mutant strains showed them to grow more slowly than the wild-type at an elevated temperature, 49°C, and they showed reduced viability at 56°C, suggesting TbpD and TfbA are involved in the heat shock response. Alignment of TBP and TFB protein sequences suggested the expansion of the TBP gene family, especially in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, and TFB gene family in representatives of five different genera of haloarchaea in which genome sequences are available.
Six of thirteen TBP and TFB genes of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 are non-essential under standard growth conditions. TbpD and TfbA coordinate the expression of over 10% of the genes in the NRC-1 genome. The ΔtbpD and ΔtfbA mutant strains are temperature sensitive, possibly as a result of down regulation of heat shock genes. Sequence alignments suggest the existence of several families of TBP and TFB transcription factors in Halobacterium which may function in transcription of different classes of genes.
The model halophile Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 was among the first Archaea to be completely sequenced and many post-genomic tools, including whole genome DNA microarrays are now being applied to its analysis. This extremophile displays tolerance to multiple stresses, including high salinity, extreme (non-mesophilic) temperatures, lack of oxygen, and ultraviolet and ionizing radiation.
In order to study the response of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 to two common stressors, salinity and temperature, we used whole genome DNA microarrays to assay for changes in gene expression under differential growth conditions. Cultures grown aerobically in rich medium at 42°C were compared to cultures grown at elevated or reduced temperature and high or low salinity. The results obtained were analyzed using a custom database and microarray analysis tools. Growth under salt stress conditions resulted in the modulation of genes coding for many ion transporters, including potassium, phosphate, and iron transporters, as well as some peptide transporters and stress proteins. Growth at cold temperature altered the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism, buoyant gas vesicles, and cold shock proteins. Heat shock showed induction of several known chaperone genes. The results showed that Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 cells are highly responsive to environmental changes at the level of gene expression.
Transcriptional profiling showed that Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 is highly responsive to its environment and provided insights into some of the specific responses at the level of gene expression. Responses to changes in salt conditions appear to be designed to minimize the loss of essential ionic species and abate possible toxic effects of others, while exposure to temperature extremes elicit responses to promote protein folding and limit factors responsible for growth inhibition. This work lays the foundation for further bioinformatic and genetic studies which will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the biology of a model halophilic Archaeon.
Information transfer systems in Archaea, including many components of the DNA replication machinery, are similar to those found in eukaryotes. Functional assignments of archaeal DNA replication genes have been primarily based upon sequence homology and biochemical studies of replisome components, but few genetic studies have been conducted thus far. We have developed a tractable genetic system for knockout analysis of genes in the model halophilic archaeon, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, and used it to determine which DNA replication genes are essential.
Using a directed in-frame gene knockout method in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, we examined nineteen genes predicted to be involved in DNA replication. Preliminary bioinformatic analysis of the large haloarchaeal Orc/Cdc6 family, related to eukaryotic Orc1 and Cdc6, showed five distinct clades of Orc/Cdc6 proteins conserved in all sequenced haloarchaea. Of ten orc/cdc6 genes in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, only two were found to be essential, orc10, on the large chromosome, and orc2, on the minichromosome, pNRC200. Of the three replicative-type DNA polymerase genes, two were essential: the chromosomally encoded B family, polB1, and the chromosomally encoded euryarchaeal-specific D family, polD1/D2 (formerly called polA1/polA2 in the Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 genome sequence). The pNRC200-encoded B family polymerase, polB2, was non-essential. Accessory genes for DNA replication initiation and elongation factors, including the putative replicative helicase, mcm, the eukaryotic-type DNA primase, pri1/pri2, the DNA polymerase sliding clamp, pcn, and the flap endonuclease, rad2, were all essential. Targeted genes were classified as non-essential if knockouts were obtained and essential based on statistical analysis and/or by demonstrating the inability to isolate chromosomal knockouts except in the presence of a complementing plasmid copy of the gene.
The results showed that ten out of nineteen eukaryotic-type DNA replication genes are essential for Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, consistent with their requirement for DNA replication. The essential genes code for two of ten Orc/Cdc6 proteins, two out of three DNA polymerases, the MCM helicase, two DNA primase subunits, the DNA polymerase sliding clamp, and the flap endonuclease.
Saline Systems is a journal devoted to both basic and applied studies of saline and hypersaline environments and their biodiversity. Here, I review the reports and commentaries published in the journal in 2006, including some exploring the geochemistry of saline estuaries, lakes, and ponds, others on the ecology and molecular biology of the indigenous halophilic organisms, and still others addressing the environmental challenges facing saline environments. Several studies are relevant to applications in biotechnology and aquaculture.
Sequenced archaeal genomes contain a variety of bacterial and eukaryotic DNA repair gene homologs, but relatively little is known about how these microorganisms actually perform DNA repair. At least some archaea, including the extreme halophile Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, are able to repair ultraviolet light (UV) induced DNA damage in the absence of light-dependent photoreactivation but this 'dark' repair capacity remains largely uncharacterized. Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 possesses homologs of the bacterial uvrA, uvrB, and uvrC nucleotide excision repair genes as well as several eukaryotic repair genes and it has been thought that multiple DNA repair pathways may account for the high UV resistance and dark repair capacity of this model halophilic archaeon. We have carried out a functional analysis, measuring repair capability in uvrA, uvrB and uvrC deletion mutants.
Deletion mutants lacking functional uvrA, uvrB or uvrC genes, including a uvrA uvrC double mutant, are hypersensitive to UV and are unable to remove cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers or 6–4 photoproducts from their DNA after irradiation with 150 J/m2 of 254 nm UV-C. The UV sensitivity of the uvr mutants is greatly attenuated following incubation under visible light, emphasizing that photoreactivation is highly efficient in this organism. Phylogenetic analysis of the Halobacterium uvr genes indicates a complex ancestry.
Our results demonstrate that homologs of the bacterial nucleotide excision repair genes uvrA, uvrB, and uvrC are required for the removal of UV damage in the absence of photoreactivating light in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1. Deletion of these genes renders cells hypersensitive to UV and abolishes their ability to remove cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and 6–4 photoproducts in the absence of photoreactivating light. In spite of this inability to repair UV damaged DNA, uvrA, uvrB and uvrC deletion mutants are substantially less UV sensitive than excision repair mutants of E. coli or yeast. This may be due to efficient damage tolerance mechanisms such as recombinational lesion bypass, bypass DNA polymerase(s) and the existence of multiple genomes in Halobacterium. Phylogenetic analysis provides no clear evidence for lateral transfer of these genes from bacteria to archaea.
Halobacteriumsp. NRC-1 is an extremely halophilic archaeon that is easily cultured and genetically tractable. Since its genome sequence was completed in 2000, a combination of genetic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and bioinformatic approaches have provided insights into both its extremophilic lifestyle as well as fundamental cellular processes common to all life forms. Here, we review post-genomic research on this archaeon, including investigations of DNA replication and repair systems, phototrophic, anaerobic, and other physiological capabilities, acidity of the proteome for function at high salinity, and role of lateral gene transfer in its evolution.
On the 4th of July, 2005, the Saline Systems editorial group launched the new online open access journal, Saline Systems, with BioMed Central as the publisher. The scope of the journal includes both basic and applied research on halophilic organisms and saline environments, from gene systems to ecosystems. The stated goal of the journal is to meet publication needs for researchers working in coastal and inland saline environments and provide an interdisciplinary and readily accessible forum for scientists worldwide. The inaugural volume of the journal contains a significant number of high quality original research papers and reviews on a wide range of relevant topics. At the end of the launch period, from January 1, 2006 onwards, the journal will be introducing article-processing charges to cover the cost of publication. Charges will be partly or completely waived for authors from BioMed Central institutional subscribers and in cases of financial hardship.
A variety of strategies for survival of UV irradiation are used by cells, ranging from repair of UV-damaged DNA, cell cycle arrest, tolerance of unrepaired UV photoproducts, and shielding from UV light. Some of these responses involve UV-inducible genes, including the SOS response in bacteria and an array of genes in eukaryotes. To address the mechanisms used in the third branch of life, we have studied the model archaeon, Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1, which tolerates high levels of solar radiation in its natural hypersaline environment.
Cells were irradiated with 30–70 J/m2 UV-C and an immunoassay showed that the resulting DNA damage was largely repaired within 3 hours in the dark. Under such conditions, transcriptional profiling showed the most strongly up-regulated gene was radA1, the archaeal homolog of rad51/recA, which was induced 7-fold. Additional genes involved in homologous recombination, such as arj1 (recJ-like exonuclease), dbp (eukaryote-like DNA binding protein of the superfamily I DNA and RNA helicases), and rfa3 (replication protein A complex), as well as nrdJ, encoding for cobalamin-dependent ribonucleotide reductase involved in DNA metabolism, were also significantly induced in one or more of our experimental conditions. Neither prokaryotic nor eukaryotic excision repair gene homologs were induced and there was no evidence of an SOS-like response.
These results show that homologous recombination plays an important role in the cellular response of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 to UV damage. Homologous recombination may permit rescue of stalled replication forks, and/or facilitate recombinational repair. In either case, this provides a mechanism for the observed high-frequency recombination among natural populations of halophilic archaea.
Saline Systems addresses the publication needs of scientists conducting basic and applied research on coastal and inland saline environments and their flora and fauna. The journal covers research at all levels, from individual genes to whole genomes and entire ecosystems. Rapid progress in the molecular biology and microbial ecology of halotolerant and halophilic organisms and the sensitivity of many saline environments warrants an online journal with fast turnaround times. Many saline environments are threatened and the need for an Open Access journal to address the dissemination and sharing of knowledge on their conservation and management is compelling. Saline Systems provides an interdisciplinary forum for scientists working within all of the relevant fields.
We have investigated anaerobic respiration of the archaeal model organism Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1 by using phenotypic and genetic analysis, bioinformatics, and transcriptome analysis. NRC-1 was found to grow on either dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) as the sole terminal electron acceptor, with a doubling time of 1 day. An operon, dmsREABCD, encoding a putative regulatory protein, DmsR, a molybdopterin oxidoreductase of the DMSO reductase family (DmsEABC), and a molecular chaperone (DmsD) was identified by bioinformatics and confirmed as a transcriptional unit by reverse transcriptase PCR analysis. dmsR, dmsA, and dmsD in-frame deletion mutants were individually constructed. Phenotypic analysis demonstrated that dmsR, dmsA, and dmsD are required for anaerobic respiration on DMSO and TMAO. The requirement for dmsR, whose predicted product contains a DNA-binding domain similar to that of the Bat family of activators (COG3413), indicated that it functions as an activator. A cysteine-rich domain was found in the dmsR gene, which may be involved in oxygen sensing. Microarray analysis using a whole-genome 60-mer oligonucleotide array showed that the dms operon is induced during anaerobic respiration. Comparison of dmsR+ and ΔdmsR strains by use of microarrays showed that the induction of the dmsEABCD operon is dependent on a functional dmsR gene, consistent with its action as a transcriptional activator. Our results clearly establish the genes required for anaerobic respiration using DMSO and TMAO in an archaeon for the first time.
The genome sequence of Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1 encodes genes homologous to those responsible for conferring resistance to arsenic. These genes occur on both the large extrachromosomal replicon pNRC100 (arsADRC and arsR2M) and on the chromosome (arsB). We studied the role of these ars genes in arsenic resistance genetically by construction of gene knockouts. Deletion of the arsADRC gene cluster in a Halobacterium NRC-1 Δura3 strain resulted in increased sensitivity to arsenite and antimonite but not arsenate. In contrast, knockout of the chromosomal arsB gene did not show significantly increased sensitivity to arsenite or arsenate. We also found that knockout of the arsM gene produced sensitivity to arsenite, suggesting a second novel mechanism of arsenic resistance involving a putative arsenite(III)-methyltransferase. These results indicate that Halobacterium sp. strain NRC-1 contains an arsenite and antimonite extrusion system with significant differences from bacterial counterparts. Deletion analysis was facilitated by an improved method for gene knockouts/replacements in Halobacterium that relies on both selection and counterselection of ura3 using a uracil dropout medium and 5-fluoroorotic acid. The arsenite and antimonite resistance elements were shown to be regulated, with resistance to arsenic in the wild type inducible by exposure to a sublethal concentration of the metal. Northern hybridization and reverse transcription-PCR analyses showed that arsA, arsD, arsR, arsM, arsC, and arsB, but not arsR2, are inducible by arsenite and antimonite. We discuss novel aspects of arsenic resistance in this halophilic archaeon and technical improvements in our capability for gene knockouts in the genome.