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1.  Methanogens: Methane Producers of the Rumen and Mitigation Strategies 
Archaea  2010;2010:945785.
Methanogens are the only known microorganisms capable of methane production, making them of interest when investigating methane abatement strategies. A number of experiments have been conducted to study the methanogen population in the rumen of cattle and sheep, as well as the relationship that methanogens have with other microorganisms. The rumen methanogen species differ depending on diet and geographical location of the host, as does methanogenesis, which can be reduced by modifying dietary composition, or by supplementation of monensin, lipids, organic acids, or plant compounds within the diet. Other methane abatement strategies that have been investigated are defaunation and vaccines. These mitigation methods target the methanogen population of the rumen directly or indirectly, resulting in varying degrees of efficacy. This paper describes the methanogens identified in the rumens of cattle and sheep, as well as a number of methane mitigation strategies that have been effective in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3021854  PMID: 21253540
2.  The Discussion Goes on: What Is the Role of Euryarchaeota in Humans? 
Archaea  2010;2010:967271.
The human body (primarily the intestinal tract, the oral cavity, and the skin) harbours approximately 1,000 different bacterial species. However, the number of archaeal species known to colonize man seems to be confined to a handful of organisms within the class Euryarchaeota (including Methanobrevibacter smithii, M. oralis, and Methanosphaera stadtmanae). In contrast to this conspicuously low diversity of Archaea in humans their unique physiology in conjunction with the growing number of reports regarding their occurrence at sites of infection has made this issue an emerging field of study. While previous review articles in recent years have addressed the putative role of particularly methanogenic archaea for human health and disease, this paper compiles novel experimental data that have been reported since then. The aim of this paper is to inspire the scientific community of “Archaea experts” for those unique archaeal organisms that have successfully participated in the human-microbe coevolution.
PMCID: PMC3021867  PMID: 21253553
3.  Towards a Systems Approach in the Genetic Analysis of Archaea: Accelerating Mutant Construction and Phenotypic Analysis in Haloferax volcanii 
Archaea  2010;2010:426239.
With the availability of a genome sequence and increasingly sophisticated genetic tools, Haloferax volcanii is becoming a model for both Archaea and halophiles. In order for H. volcanii to reach a status equivalent to Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a gene knockout collection needs to be constructed in order to identify the archaeal essential gene set and enable systematic phenotype screens. A streamlined gene-deletion protocol adapted for potential automation was implemented and used to generate 22 H. volcanii deletion strains and identify several potentially essential genes. These gene deletion mutants, generated in this and previous studies, were then analyzed in a high-throughput fashion to measure growth rates in different media and temperature conditions. We conclude that these high-throughput methods are suitable for a rapid investigation of an H. volcanii mutant library and suggest that they should form the basis of a larger genome-wide experiment.
PMCID: PMC3017900  PMID: 21234384
4.  The Genome Sequence of Methanohalophilus mahii SLPT Reveals Differences in the Energy Metabolism among Members of the Methanosarcinaceae Inhabiting Freshwater and Saline Environments 
Archaea  2010;2010:690737.
Methanohalophilus mahii is the type species of the genus Methanohalophilus, which currently comprises three distinct species with validly published names. Mhp. mahii represents moderately halophilic methanogenic archaea with a strictly methylotrophic metabolism. The type strain SLPT was isolated from hypersaline sediments collected from the southern arm of Great Salt Lake, Utah. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the complete genome sequence and annotation. The 2,012,424 bp genome is a single replicon with 2032 protein-coding and 63 RNA genes and part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project. A comparison of the reconstructed energy metabolism in the halophilic species Mhp. mahii with other representatives of the Methanosarcinaceae reveals some interesting differences to freshwater species.
PMCID: PMC3017947  PMID: 21234345
5.  A Novel Pathway for the Biosynthesis of Heme in Archaea: Genome-Based Bioinformatic Predictions and Experimental Evidence 
Archaea  2010;2010:175050.
Heme is an essential prosthetic group for many proteins involved in fundamental biological processes in all three domains of life. In Eukaryota and Bacteria heme is formed via a conserved and well-studied biosynthetic pathway. Surprisingly, in Archaea heme biosynthesis proceeds via an alternative route which is poorly understood. In order to formulate a working hypothesis for this novel pathway, we searched 59 completely sequenced archaeal genomes for the presence of gene clusters consisting of established heme biosynthetic genes and colocalized conserved candidate genes. Within the majority of archaeal genomes it was possible to identify such heme biosynthesis gene clusters. From this analysis we have been able to identify several novel heme biosynthesis genes that are restricted to archaea. Intriguingly, several of the encoded proteins display similarity to enzymes involved in heme d1 biosynthesis. To initiate an experimental verification of our proposals two Methanosarcina barkeri proteins predicted to catalyze the initial steps of archaeal heme biosynthesis were recombinantly produced, purified, and their predicted enzymatic functions verified.
PMCID: PMC3004389  PMID: 21197080
6.  Different Residues on the Surface of the Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus MCM Helicase Interact with Single- and Double-Stranded DNA 
Archaea  2010;2010:505693.
The minichromosome maintenance (MCM) complex is thought to function as the replicative helicase in archaea, separating the two strands of chromosomal DNA during replication. The catalytic activity resides within the C-terminal region of the MCM protein, while the N-terminal portion plays an important role in DNA binding and protein multimerization. An alignment of MCM homologues from several archaeal species revealed a number of conserved amino acids. Here several of the conserved residues located on the surface of the helicase have been mutated and their roles in MCM functions determined. It was found that some mutations result in increased affinity for ssDNA while the affinity for dsDNA is decreased. Other mutants exhibit the opposite effect. Thus, the data suggest that these conserved surface residues may participate in MCM-DNA interactions.
PMCID: PMC2997501  PMID: 21151660
7.  The Lrp Family of Transcription Regulators in Archaea 
Archaea  2010;2010:750457.
Archaea possess a eukaryotic-type basal transcription apparatus that is regulated by bacteria-like transcription regulators. A universal and abundant family of transcription regulators are the bacterial/archaeal Lrp-like regulators. The Lrp family is one of the best studied regulator families in archaea, illustrated by investigations of proteins from the archaeal model organisms: Sulfolobus, Pyrococcus, Methanocaldococcus, and Halobacterium. These regulators are extremely versatile in their DNA-binding properties, response to effector molecules, and molecular regulatory mechanisms. Besides being involved in the regulation of the amino acid metabolism, they also regulate central metabolic processes. It appears that these regulatory proteins are also involved in large regulatory networks, because of hierarchical regulations and the possible combinatorial use of different Lrp-like proteins. Here, we discuss the recent developments in our understanding of this important class of regulators.
PMCID: PMC2995911  PMID: 21151646
8.  Two Major Archaeal Pseudomurein Endoisopeptidases: PeiW and PeiP 
Archaea  2010;2010:480492.
PeiW (UniProtKB Q7LYX0) and PeiP (UniProtKB Q77WJ4) are the two major pseudomurein endoisopeptidases (Pei) that are known to cleave pseudomurein cell-wall sacculi of the members of the methanogenic orders Methanobacteriales and Methanopyrales. Both enzymes, originating from prophages specific for some methanogenic archaeal species, hydrolyze the ϵ(Ala)-Lys bond of the peptide linker between adjacent pseudomurein layers. Because lysozyme is not able to cleave the pseudomurein cell wall, the enzymes are used in protoplast preparation and in DNA isolation from pseudomurein cell-wall-containing methanogens. Moreover, PeiW increases the probe permeability ratio and enables fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and catalyzed reporter deposition (CARD-) FISH experiments to be performed on these methanogens.
PMCID: PMC2989375  PMID: 21113291
9.  Archaeal Protein Biogenesis: Posttranslational Modification and Degradation 
Archaea  2010;2010:643046.
PMCID: PMC2948886  PMID: 20936149
10.  The S-Layer Glycoprotein of the Crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius Is Glycosylated at Multiple Sites with Chitobiose-Linked N-Glycans 
Archaea  2010;2010:754101.
Glycosylation of the S-layer of the crenarchaea Sulfolobus acidocaldarius has been investigated using glycoproteomic methodologies. The mature protein is predicted to contain 31 N-glycosylation consensus sites with approximately one third being found in the C-terminal domain spanning residues L1004-Q1395. Since this domain is rich in Lys and Arg and therefore relatively tractable to glycoproteomic analysis, this study has focused on mapping its N-glycosylation. Our analysis identified nine of the 11 consensus sequence sites, and all were found to be glycosylated. This constitutes a remarkably high glycosylation density in the C-terminal domain averaging one site for each stretch of 30–40 residues. Each of the glycosylation sites observed was shown to be modified with a heterogeneous family of glycans, with the largest having a composition Glc1Man2GlcNAc2 plus 6-sulfoquinovose (QuiS), consistent with the tribranched hexasaccharide previously reported in the cytochrome b558/566 of S. acidocaldarius. S. acidocaldarius is the only archaeal species whose N-glycans are known to be linked via the chitobiose core disaccharide that characterises the N-linked glycans of Eukarya.
PMCID: PMC2948927  PMID: 20936123
11.  Archaeal Ubiquitin-Like Proteins: Functional Versatility and Putative Ancestral Involvement in tRNA Modification Revealed by Comparative Genomic Analysis 
Archaea  2010;2010:710303.
The recent discovery of protein modification by SAMPs, ubiquitin-like (Ubl) proteins from the archaeon Haloferax volcanii, prompted a comprehensive comparative-genomic analysis of archaeal Ubl protein genes and the genes for enzymes thought to be functionally associated with Ubl proteins. This analysis showed that most archaea encode members of two major groups of Ubl proteins with the β-grasp fold, the ThiS and MoaD families, and indicated that the ThiS family genes are rarely linked to genes for thiamine or Mo/W cofactor metabolism enzymes but instead are most often associated with genes for enzymes of tRNA modification. Therefore it is hypothesized that the ancestral function of the archaeal Ubl proteins is sulfur insertion into modified nucleotides in tRNAs, an activity analogous to that of the URM1 protein in eukaryotes. Together with additional, previously described genomic associations, these findings indicate that systems for protein quality control operating at different levels, including tRNA modification that controls translation fidelity, protein ubiquitination that regulates protein degradation, and, possibly, mRNA degradation by the exosome, are functionally and evolutionarily linked.
PMCID: PMC2948915  PMID: 20936112
12.  Iron-Sulfur World in Aerobic and Hyperthermoacidophilic Archaea Sulfolobus 
Archaea  2010;2010:842639.
The general importance of the Fe-S cluster prosthetic groups in biology is primarily attributable to specific features of iron and sulfur chemistry, and the assembly and interplay of the Fe-S cluster core with the surrounding protein is the key to in-depth understanding of the underlying mechanisms. In the aerobic and thermoacidophilic archaea, zinc-containing ferredoxin is abundant in the cytoplasm, functioning as a key electron carrier, and many Fe-S enzymes are produced to participate in the central metabolic and energetic pathways. De novo formation of intracellular Fe-S clusters does not occur spontaneously but most likely requires the operation of a SufBCD complex of the SUF machinery, which is the only Fe-S cluster biosynthesis system conserved in these archaea. In this paper, a brief introduction to the buildup and maintenance of the intracellular Fe-S world in aerobic and hyperthermoacidophilic crenarchaeotes, mainly Sulfolobus, is given in the biochemical, genetic, and evolutionary context.
PMCID: PMC2946596  PMID: 20885930
13.  Mutational and Bioinformatic Analysis of Haloarchaeal Lipobox-Containing Proteins 
Archaea  2010;2010:410975.
A conserved lipid-modified cysteine found in a protein motif commonly referred to as a lipobox mediates the membrane anchoring of a subset of proteins transported across the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane via the Sec pathway. Sequenced haloarchaeal genomes encode many putative lipoproteins and recent studies have confirmed the importance of the conserved lipobox cysteine for signal peptide processing of three lipobox-containing proteins in the model archaeon Haloferax volcanii. We have extended these in vivo analyses to additional Hfx. volcanii substrates, supporting our previous in silico predictions and confirming the diversity of predicted Hfx. volcanii lipoproteins. Moreover, using extensive comparative secretome analyses, we identified genes encodining putative lipoproteins across a wide range of archaeal species. While our in silico analyses, supported by in vivo data, indicate that most haloarchaeal lipoproteins are Tat substrates, these analyses also predict that many crenarchaeal species lack lipoproteins altogether and that other archaea, such as nonhalophilic euryarchaeal species, transport lipoproteins via the Sec pathway. To facilitate the identification of genes that encode potential haloarchaeal Tat-lipoproteins, we have developed TatLipo, a bioinformatic tool designed to detect lipoboxes in haloarchaeal Tat signal peptides. Our results provide a strong foundation for future studies aimed at identifying components of the archaeal lipoprotein biogenesis pathway.
PMCID: PMC2945643  PMID: 20886060
14.  Protein Acetylation in Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryotes 
Archaea  2010;2010:820681.
Proteins can be acetylated at the alpha-amino group of the N-terminal amino acid (methionine or the penultimate amino acid after methionine removal) or at the epsilon-amino group of internal lysines. In eukaryotes the majority of proteins are N-terminally acetylated, while this is extremely rare in bacteria. A variety of studies about N-terminal acetylation in archaea have been reported recently, and it was revealed that a considerable fraction of proteins is N-terminally acetylated in haloarchaea and Sulfolobus, while this does not seem to apply for methanogenic archaea. Many eukaryotic proteins are modified by differential internal acetylation, which is important for a variety of processes. Until very recently, only two bacterial proteins were known to be acetylation targets, but now 125 acetylation sites are known for E. coli. Knowledge about internal acetylation in archaea is extremely limited; only two target proteins are known, only one of which—Alba—was used to study differential acetylation. However, indications accumulate that the degree of internal acetylation of archaeal proteins might be underestimated, and differential acetylation has been shown to be essential for the viability of haloarchaea. Focused proteomic approaches are needed to get an overview of the extent of internal protein acetylation in archaea.
PMCID: PMC2946573  PMID: 20885971
15.  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
16.  Selenocysteine, Pyrrolysine, and the Unique Energy Metabolism of Methanogenic Archaea 
Archaea  2010;2010:453642.
Methanogenic archaea are a group of strictly anaerobic microorganisms characterized by their strict dependence on the process of methanogenesis for energy conservation. Among the archaea, they are also the only known group synthesizing proteins containing selenocysteine or pyrrolysine. All but one of the known archaeal pyrrolysine-containing and all but two of the confirmed archaeal selenocysteine-containing protein are involved in methanogenesis. Synthesis of these proteins proceeds through suppression of translational stop codons but otherwise the two systems are fundamentally different. This paper highlights these differences and summarizes the recent developments in selenocysteine- and pyrrolysine-related research on archaea and aims to put this knowledge into the context of their unique energy metabolism.
PMCID: PMC2933860  PMID: 20847933
17.  Extensive Lysine Methylation in Hyperthermophilic Crenarchaea: Potential Implications for Protein Stability and Recombinant Enzymes 
Archaea  2010;2010:106341.
In eukarya and bacteria, lysine methylation is relatively rare and is catalysed by sequence-specific lysine methyltransferases that typically have only a single-protein target. Using RNA polymerase purified from the thermophilic crenarchaeum Sulfolobus solfataricus, we identified 21 methyllysines distributed across 9 subunits of the enzyme. The modified lysines were predominantly in α-helices and showed no conserved sequence context. A limited survey of the Thermoproteus tenax proteome revealed widespread modification with 52 methyllysines in 30 different proteins. These observations suggest the presence of an unusual lysine methyltransferase with relaxed specificity in the crenarchaea. Since lysine methylation is known to enhance protein thermostability, this may be an adaptation to a thermophilic lifestyle. The implications of this modification for studies and applications of recombinant crenarchaeal enzymes are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2929605  PMID: 20811616
18.  S-Layer Glycoproteins and Flagellins: Reporters of Archaeal Posttranslational Modifications 
Archaea  2010;2010:612948.
Many archaeal proteins undergo posttranslational modifications. S-layer proteins and flagellins have been used successfully to study a variety of these modifications, including N-linked glycosylation, signal peptide removal and lipid modification. Use of these well-characterized reporter proteins in the genetically tractable model organisms, Haloferax volcanii, Methanococcus voltae and Methanococcus maripaludis, has allowed dissection of the pathways and characterization of many of the enzymes responsible for these modifications. Such studies have identified archaeal-specific variations in signal peptidase activity not found in the other domains of life, as well as the enzymes responsible for assembly and biosynthesis of novel N-linked glycans. In vitro assays for some of these enzymes have already been developed. N-linked glycosylation is not essential for either Hfx. volcanii or the Methanococcus species, an observation that allowed researchers to analyze the role played by glycosylation in the function of both S-layers and flagellins, by generating mutants possessing these reporters with only partial attached glycans or lacking glycan altogether. In future studies, it will be possible to consider questions related to the heterogeneity associated with given modifications, such as differential or modulated glycosylation.
PMCID: PMC2913515  PMID: 20721273
19.  Phosphorylation and Methylation of Proteasomal Proteins of the Haloarcheon Haloferax volcanii 
Archaea  2010;2010:481725.
Proteasomes are composed of 20S core particles (CPs) of α- and β-type subunits that associate with regulatory particle AAA ATPases such as the proteasome-activating nucleotidase (PAN) complexes of archaea. In this study, the roles and additional sites of post-translational modification of proteasomes were investigated using the archaeon Haloferax volcanii as a model. Indicative of phosphorylation, phosphatase-sensitive isoforms of α1 and α2 were detected by 2-DE immunoblot. To map these and other potential sites of post-translational modification, proteasomes were purified and analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). Using this approach, several phosphosites were mapped including α1 Thr147, α2 Thr13/Ser14 and PAN-A Ser340. Multiple methylation sites were also mapped to α1, thus, revealing a new type of proteasomal modification. Probing the biological role of α1 and PAN-A phosphorylation by site-directed mutagenesis revealed dominant negative phenotypes for cell viability and/or pigmentation for α1 variants including Thr147Ala, Thr158Ala and Ser58Ala. An H. volcanii Rio1p Ser/Thr kinase homolog was purified and shown to catalyze autophosphorylation and phosphotransfer to α1. The α1 variants in Thr and Ser residues that displayed dominant negative phenotypes were significantly reduced in their ability to accept phosphoryl groups from Rio1p, thus, providing an important link between cell physiology and proteasomal phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2910475  PMID: 20671954
20.  Shaping the Archaeal Cell Envelope 
Archaea  2010;2010:608243.
Although archaea have a similar cellular organization as other prokaryotes, the lipid composition of their membranes and their cell surface is unique. Here we discuss recent developments in our understanding of the archaeal protein secretion mechanisms, the assembly of macromolecular cell surface structures, and the release of S-layer-coated vesicles from the archaeal membrane.
PMCID: PMC2910488  PMID: 20671907
21.  Archaea Signal Recognition Particle Shows the Way 
Archaea  2010;2010:485051.
Archaea SRP is composed of an SRP RNA molecule and two bound proteins named SRP19 and SRP54. Regulated by the binding and hydrolysis of guanosine triphosphates, the RNA-bound SRP54 protein transiently associates not only with the hydrophobic signal sequence as it emerges from the ribosomal exit tunnel, but also interacts with the membrane-associated SRP receptor (FtsY). Comparative analyses of the archaea genomes and their SRP component sequences, combined with structural and biochemical data, support a prominent role of the SRP RNA in the assembly and function of the archaea SRP. The 5e motif, which in eukaryotes binds a 72 kilodalton protein, is preserved in most archaea SRP RNAs despite the lack of an archaea SRP72 homolog. The primary function of the 5e region may be to serve as a hinge, strategically positioned between the small and large SRP domain, allowing the elongated SRP to bind simultaneously to distant ribosomal sites. SRP19, required in eukaryotes for initiating SRP assembly, appears to play a subordinate role in the archaea SRP or may be defunct. The N-terminal A region and a novel C-terminal R region of the archaea SRP receptor (FtsY) are strikingly diverse or absent even among the members of a taxonomic subgroup.
PMCID: PMC2905702  PMID: 20672053
22.  Identification of Residues Important for the Activity of Haloferax volcanii AglD, a Component of the Archaeal N-Glycosylation Pathway 
Archaea  2010;2010:315108.
In Haloferax volcanii, AglD adds the final hexose to the N-linked pentasaccharide decorating the S-layer glycoprotein. Not knowing the natural substrate of the glycosyltransferase, together with the challenge of designing assays compatible with hypersalinity, has frustrated efforts at biochemical characterization of AglD activity. To circumvent these obstacles, an in vivo assay designed to identify amino acid residues important for AglD activity is described. In the assay, restoration of AglD function in an Hfx. volcanii aglD deletion strain transformed to express plasmid-encoded versions of AglD, generated through site-directed mutagenesis at positions encoding residues conserved in archaeal homologues of AglD, is reflected in the behavior of a readily detectable reporter of N-glycosylation. As such Asp110 and Asp112 were designated as elements of the DXD motif of AglD, a motif that interacts with metal cations associated with nucleotide-activated sugar donors, while Asp201 was predicted to be the catalytic base of the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2877612  PMID: 20585355

Results 1-22 (22)