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1.  Many nonuniversal archaeal ribosomal proteins are found in conserved gene clusters 
Archaea  2009;2(4):241-251.
The genomic associations of the archaeal ribosomal proteins, (r-proteins), were examined in detail. The archaeal versions of the universal r-protein genes are typically in clusters similar or identical and to those found in bacteria. Of the 35 nonuniversal archaeal r-protein genes examined, the gene encoding L18e was found to be associated with the conserved L13 cluster, whereas the genes for S4e, L32e and L19e were found in the archaeal version of the spc operon. Eleven nonuniversal protein genes were not associated with any common genomic context. Of the remaining 19 protein genes, 17 were convincingly assigned to one of 10 previously unrecognized gene clusters. Examination of the gene content of these clusters revealed multiple associations with genes involved in the initiation of protein synthesis, transcription or other cellular processes. The lack of such associations in the universal clusters suggests that initially the ribosome evolved largely independently of other processes. More recently it likely has evolved in concert with other cellular systems. It was also verified that a second copy of the gene encoding L7ae found in some bacteria is actually a homolog of the gene encoding L30e and should be annotated as such.
PMCID: PMC2686390  PMID: 19478915
operons; ribosome evolution; transcription
2.  Improving low-temperature activity of Sulfolobus acidocaldarius 2-keto-3-deoxygluconate aldolase 
Archaea  2009;2(4):233-239.
Sulfolobus acidocaldarius 2-keto-3-deoxygluconate aldolase (SacKdgA) displays optimal activity at 95 °C and is studied as a model enzyme for aldol condensation reactions. For application of SacKdgA at lower temperatures, a library of randomly generated mutants was screened for improved synthesis of 2-keto-3-deoxygluconate from pyruvate and glyceraldehyde at the suboptimal temperature of 50 °C. The single mutant SacKdgA-V193A displayed a threefold increase in activity compared with wild type SacKdgA. The increased specific activity at 40–60 °C of this mutant was observed, not only for the condensation of pyruvate with glyceraldehyde, but also for several unnatural acceptor aldehydes. The optimal temperature for activity of SacKdgA-V193A was lower than for the wild type enzyme, but enzymatic stability of the mutant was similar to that of the wild type, indicating that activity and stability were uncoupled. Valine193 has Van der Waals interactions with Lysine153, which covalently binds the substrate during catalysis. The mutation V193A introduced space close to this essential residue, and the increased activity of the mutant presumably resulted from increased flexibility of Lysine153. The increased activity of SacKdgA-V193A with unaffected stability demonstrates the potential for optimizing extremely thermostable aldolases for synthesis reactions at moderate temperatures.
PMCID: PMC2686391  PMID: 19478916
biocatalysis; directed evolution; enzyme; error-prone PCR; laboratory evolution; thermophile
3.  pH-, temperature- and ion-dependent oligomerization of Sulfolobus solfataricus recombinant amidase: a study with site-specific mutants 
Archaea  2009;2(4):221-231.
Recombinant amidase from Sulfolobus solfataricus occurred as a dimer of 110 kDa comprising identical subunits. Only dimers were present at pHs above 7.0, but with decreasing pH, dimers associated into octamers, with complete oligomerization occurring at pH 3.0. Oligomerization showed reversible temperature-dependence, with octamer formation increasing with temperature from 36 °C to between 70 and 80° C. Increasing salt concentrations, favored dissociation of the octamers. Among the three investigated factors affecting the dimer–octamer equilibrium, the most important was pH. Among four mutants obtained by site-specific mutagenesis and selection for pH and temperature sensitivity, the T319I and D487N mutant amidases, like that of the native Sulfolobus solfataricus, responded to changes in pH and temperature with a conformational change affecting the dimer–octamer equilibrium. The Y41C and L34P mutant amidases were unaffected by pH and temperature, remaining always in the dimeric state. The differences among mutants in protein conformation must be related to the position of the introduced mutation. Although the L34P and Y41C mutations are located in the helical region 33–48 (LLKLQLESYERLDSLP), which is close to the amino-terminal segment of the protein, the T319I mutation is located in a strand on the surface of the protein, which is far from, and opposite to, the amino-terminal segment. The D487N mutation is located in the center of the protein, far distant from the 33–48 segment. These observations suggest that the segment of the protein closest to the amino-terminus plays a key role in the association of dimers into octamers.
PMCID: PMC2686392  PMID: 19478917
amidase; archaea; hyperthermophile; oligomerization; signature amidase
4.  A Gateway platform for functional genomics in Haloferax volcanii: deletion of three tRNA modification genes 
Archaea  2009;2(4):211-219.
In part due to the existence of simple methods for its cultivation and genetic manipulation, Haloferax volcanii is a major archaeal model organism. It is the only archaeon for which the whole set of post-transcriptionally modified tRNAs has been sequenced, allowing for an in silico prediction of all RNA modification genes present in the organism. One approach to check these predictions experimentally is via the construction of targeted gene deletion mutants. Toward this goal, an integrative “Gateway vector” that allows gene deletion in H. volcanii uracil auxotrophs was constructed. The vector was used to delete three predicted tRNA modification genes: HVO_2001 (encoding an archaeal transglycosyl tranferase or arcTGT), which is involved in archeosine biosynthesis; HVO_2348 (encoding a newly discovered GTP cyclohydrolase I), which catalyzes the first step common to archaeosine and folate biosynthesis; and HVO_2736 (encoding a member of the COG1444 family), which is involved in N4-acetylcytidine (ac4C) formation. Preliminary phenotypic analysis of the deletion mutants was conducted, and confirmed all three predictions.
PMCID: PMC2686393  PMID: 19478918
Archaea; GTP-cyclohydrolase I; halophile; tRNA-modification

Results 1-4 (4)