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1.  SSoNΔ and SSoNΔlong: two thermostable esterases from the same ORF in the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus? 
Archaea  2006;2(2):109-115.
Previously, we reported from the Sulfolobus solfataricus open reading frame (ORF) SSO2517 the cloning, overexpression and characterization of an esterase belonging to the hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) family and apparently having a deletion at the N-terminus, which we named SSoNΔ. Searching the recently reported Sulfolobus acidocaldarius genome by sequence alignment, using SSO2517 as a query, allowed identity of a putative esterase (ORF SAC1105) sharing high sequence similarity (82%) with SSO2517. This esterase displays an N-terminus and total length similar to other known esterases of the HSL family. Analysis of the upstream DNA sequence of SS02517 revealed the possibility of expressing a longer version of the protein with an extended N-terminus; however, no clear translation signal consistent with a longer protein version was detected. This new version of SSO2517 was cloned, over-expressed, purified and characterized. The resulting protein, named SSoNΔlong, was 15-fold more active with the substrate p-nitrophenyl hexanoate than SSoNΔ. Furthermore, SSoNΔlong and SSoNΔ displayed different substrate specificities for triacylglycerols. These results and the phylogenetic relationship between S. solfataricus and S. acidocaldarius suggest a common origin of SSO2517 and SAC1105 from an ancestral gene, followed by divergent evolution. Alternatively, a yet-to-be discovered mechanism of translation that directs the expression of SSoNΔlong under specific metabolic conditions could be hypothesized.
PMCID: PMC2686388  PMID: 17350931
archaea; HSL family; N-terminus; thermophilic carboxylesterase
2.  Lineage-specific partitions in archaeal transcription 
Archaea  2006;2(2):117-125.
The phylogenetic distribution of the components comprising the transcriptional machinery in the crenarchaeal and euryarchaeal lineages of the Archaea was analyzed in a systematic manner by genome-wide profiling of transcription complements in fifteen complete archaeal genome sequences. Initially, a reference set of transcription-associated proteins (TAPs) consisting of sequences functioning in all aspects of the transcriptional process, and originating from the three domains of life, was used to query the genomes. TAP-families were detected by sequence clustering of the TAPs and their archaeal homologues, and through extensive database searching, these families were assigned a function. The phylogenetic origins of archaeal genes matching hidden Markov model profiles of protein domains associated with transcription, and those encoding the TAP-homologues, showed there is extensive lineage-specificity of proteins that function as regulators of transcription: most of these sequences are present solely in the Euryarchaeota, with nearly all of them homologous to bacterial DNA-binding proteins. Strikingly, the hidden Markov model profile searches revealed that archaeal chromatin and histone-modifying enzymes also display extensive taxon-restrictedness, both across and within the two phyla.
PMCID: PMC2686387  PMID: 17350932
genome profiling; protein families; sequence clustering; transcription-associated proteins
3.  AMP-forming acetyl-CoA synthetases in Archaea show unexpected diversity in substrate utilization 
Archaea  2006;2(2):95-107.
Adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-forming acetyl-CoA synthetase (ACS; acetate:CoA ligase (AMP-forming), EC is a key enzyme for conversion of acetate to acetyl-CoA, an essential intermediate at the junction of anabolic and catabolic pathways. Phylogenetic analysis of putative short and medium chain acyl-CoA synthetase sequences indicates that the ACSs form a distinct clade from other acyl-CoA synthetases. Within this clade, the archaeal ACSs are not monophyletic and fall into three groups composed of both bacterial and archaeal sequences. Kinetic analysis of two archaeal enzymes, an ACS from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus (designated as MT-ACS1) and an ACS from Archaeoglobus fulgidus (designated as AF-ACS2), revealed that these enzymes have very different properties. MT-ACS1 has nearly 11-fold higher affinity and 14-fold higher catalytic efficiency with acetate than with propionate, a property shared by most ACSs. However, AF-ACS2 has only 2.3-fold higher affinity and catalytic efficiency with acetate than with propionate. This enzyme has an affinity for propionate that is almost identical to that of MT-ACS1 for acetate and nearly tenfold higher than the affinity of MT-ACS1 for propionate. Furthermore, MT-ACS1 is limited to acetate and propionate as acyl substrates, whereas AF-ACS2 can also utilize longer straight and branched chain acyl substrates. Phylogenetic analysis, sequence alignment and structural modeling suggest a molecular basis for the altered substrate preference and expanded substrate range of AF-ACS2 versus MT-ACS1.
PMCID: PMC2686389  PMID: 17350930
acetate; Archaeoglobus fulgidus; Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus
4.  Widespread distribution of archaeal reverse gyrase in thermophilic bacteria suggests a complex history of vertical inheritance and lateral gene transfers 
Archaea  2006;2(2):83-93.
Reverse gyrase, an enzyme of uncertain funtion, is present in all hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria. Previous phylogenetic studies have suggested that the gene for reverse gyrase has an archaeal origin and was transferred laterally (LGT) to the ancestors of the two bacterial hyperthermophilic phyla, Thermotogales and Aquificales. Here, we performed an in-depth analysis of the evolutionary history of reverse gyrase in light of genomic progress. We found genes coding for reverse gyrase in the genomes of several thermophilic bacteria that belong to phyla other than Aquificales and Thermotogales. Several of these bacteria are not, strictly speaking, hyperthermophiles because their reported optimal growth temperatures are below 80 °C. Furthermore, we detected a reverse gyrase gene in the sequence of the large plasmid of Thermus thermophilus strain HB8, suggesting a possible mechanism of transfer to the T. thermophilus strain HB8 involving plasmids and transposases. The archaeal part of the reverse gyrase tree is congruent with recent phylogenies of the archaeal domain based on ribosomal proteins or RNA polymerase subunits. Although poorly resolved, the complete reverse gyrase phylogeny suggests an ancient acquisition of the gene by bacteria via one or two LGT events, followed by its secondary distribution by LGT within bacteria. Finally, several genes of archaeal origin located in proximity to the reverse gyrase gene in bacterial genomes have bacterial homologues mostly in thermophiles or hyperthermophiles, raising the possibility that they were co-transferred with the reverse gyrase gene. Our new analysis of the reverse gyrase history strengthens the hypothesis that the acquisition of reverse gyrase may have been a crucial evolutionary step in the adaptation of bacteria to high-temperature environments. However, it also questions the role of this enzyme in thermophilic bacteria and the selective advantage its presence could provide.
PMCID: PMC2686386  PMID: 17350929
adaptation; Archaea; evolution; genome context; HGT; hyperthermophily; plasmid; thermophily; Thermus thermophilus
5.  An analysis of amino acid sequences surrounding archaeal glycoprotein sequons 
Archaea  2006;2(2):73-81.
Despite having provided the first example of a prokaryal glycoprotein, little is known of the rules governing the N-glycosylation process in Archaea. As in Eukarya and Bacteria, archaeal N-glycosylation takes place at the Asn residues of Asn-X-Ser/Thr sequons. Since not all sequons are utilized, it is clear that other factors, including the context in which a sequon exists, affect glycosylation efficiency. As yet, the contribution to N-glycosylation made by sequon-bordering residues and other related factors in Archaea remains unaddressed. In the following, the surroundings of Asn residues confirmed by experiment as modified were analyzed in an attempt to define sequence rules and requirements for archaeal N-glycosylation.
PMCID: PMC2686383  PMID: 17350928
Archaea; N-glycosylation; oligosaccharide transferase; post-translational modification
6.  A putative viral defence mechanism in archaeal cells 
Archaea  2006;2(1):59-72.
Clusters of regularly spaced direct repeats, separated by unconserved spacer sequences, are ubiquitous in archaeal chromosomes and occur in some plasmids. Some clusters constitute around 1% of chromosomal DNA. Similarly structured clusters, generally smaller, also occur in some bacterial chromosomes. Although early studies implicated these clusters in segregation/partition functions, recent evidence suggests that the spacer sequences derive from extrachromosomal elements, and, primarily, viruses. This has led to the proposal that the clusters provide a defence against viral propagation in cells, and that both the mode of inhibition of viral propagation and the mechanism of adding spacer-repeat units to clusters, are dependent on RNAs transcribed from the clusters. Moreover, the putative inhibitory apparatus (piRNA-based) may be evolutionarily related to the interference RNA systems (siRNA and miRNA), which are common in eukarya. Here, we analyze all the current data on archaeal repeat clusters and provide some new insights into their diverse structures, transcriptional properties and mode of structural development. The results are consistent with larger cluster transcripts being processed at the centers of the repeat sequences and being further trimmed by exonucleases to yield a dominant, intracellular RNA species, which corresponds approximately to the size of a spacer. Furthermore, analysis of the extensive clusters of Sulfolobus solfataricus strains P1 and P2B provides support for the presence of a flanking sequence adjoining a cluster being a prerequisite for the incorporation of new spacer-repeat units, which occurs between the flanking sequence and the cluster. An archaeal database summarizing the data will be maintained at
PMCID: PMC2685585  PMID: 16877322
archaeal genomes; piRNA; plasmids; SRSR-CRISPR; viruses
7.  Purification and characterization of a thermostable, haloalkaliphilic extracellular serine protease from the extreme halophilic archaeon Halogeometricum borinquense strain TSS101 
Archaea  2006;2(1):51-57.
A novel haloalkaliphilic, thermostable serine protease was purified from the extreme halophilic archaeon, Halogeometricum borinquense strainTSS101. The protease was isolated from a stationary phase culture, purified 116-fold with 18% yield and characterized biochemically. The molecular mass of the purified enzyme was estimated to be 86 kDa. The enzyme showed the highest activity at 60 °C and pH 10.0 in 20% NaCl. The enzyme had high activity over the pH range from 6.0 to 10.0. Enzymatic activity was strongly inhibited by 1 mM phenyl methylsulfonyl fluoride, but activity was increased 59% by 0.1% cetyltrimethylammonium bromide. The enzyme exhibited relatively high thermal stability, retaining 80% of its activity after 1 h at 90 °C. Thermostability increased in the presence of Ca2+. The stability of the enzyme was maintained in 10% sucrose and in the absence of NaCl.
PMCID: PMC2685586  PMID: 16877321
calcium chloride; cetyltrimethylammonium bromide; halophilic serine protease; metal ions; osmolytes; protease inhibitors
8.  Identification of SmtB/ArsR cis elements and proteins in archaea using the Prokaryotic InterGenic Exploration Database (PIGED) 
Archaea  2006;2(1):39-49.
Microbial genome sequencing projects have revealed an apparently wide distribution of SmtB/ArsR metal-responsive transcriptional regulators among prokaryotes. Using a position-dependent weight matrix approach, prokaryotic genome sequences were screened for SmtB/ArsR DNA binding sites using data derived from intergenic sequences upstream of orthologous genes encoding these regulators. Sixty SmtB/ArsR operators linked to metal detoxification genes, including nine among various archaeal species, are predicted among 230 annotated and draft prokaryotic genome sequences. Independent multiple sequence alignments of putative operator sites and corresponding winged helix-turn-helix motifs define sequence signatures for the DNA binding activity of this SmtB/ArsR subfamily. Prediction of an archaeal SmtB/ArsR based upon these signature sequences is confirmed using purified Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A protein and electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Tools used in this study have been incorporated into a web application, the Prokaryotic InterGenic Exploration Database (PIGED;, facilitating comparable studies. Use of this tool and establishment of orthology based on DNA binding signatures holds promise for deciphering potential cellular roles of various archaeal winged helix-turn-helix transcriptional regulators.
PMCID: PMC2685587  PMID: 16877320
DNA binding; regulation; transcription; winged helix-turn-helix
9.  Cultivation of methanogens from shallow marine sediments at Hydrate Ridge, Oregon 
Archaea  2006;2(1):31-38.
Little is known about the methanogenic degradation of acetate, the fate of molecular hydrogen and formate or the ability of methanogens to grow and produce methane in cold, anoxic marine sediments. The microbes that produce methane were examined in permanently cold, anoxic marine sediments at Hydrate Ridge (44°35' N, 125°10' W, depth 800 m). Sediment samples (15 to 35 cm deep) were collected from areas of active methane ebullition or areas where methane hydrates occurred. The samples were diluted into enrichment medium with formate, acetate or trimethylamine as catabolic substrate. After 2 years of incubation at 4 °C to 15 °C, enrichment cultures produced methane. PCR amplification and sequencing of the rRNA genes from the highest dilutions with growth suggested that each enrichment culture contained a single strain of methanogen. The level of sequence similarity (91 to 98%) to previously characterized prokaryotes suggested that these methanogens belonged to novel genera or species within the orders Methanomicrobiales and Methanosarcinales. Analysis of the 16S rRNA gene libraries from DNA extracted directly from the sediment samples revealed phylotypes that were either distantly related to cultivated methanogens or possible anaerobic methane oxidizers related to the ANME-1 and ANME-2 groups of the Archaea. However, no methanogenic sequences were detected, suggesting that methanogens represented only a small proportion of the archaeal.
PMCID: PMC2685590  PMID: 16877319
cultivation; marine sediments; psychrotolerant
10.  Distribution, structure and diversity of “bacterial” genes encoding two-component proteins in the Euryarchaeota 
Archaea  2006;2(1):11-30.
The publicly available annotated archaeal genome sequences (23 complete and three partial annotations, October 2005) were searched for the presence of potential two-component open reading frames (ORFs) using gene category lists and BLASTP. A total of 489 potential two-component genes were identified from the gene category lists and BLASTP. Two-component genes were found in 14 of the 21 Euryarchaeal sequences (October 2005) and in neither the Crenarchaeota nor the Nanoarchaeota. A total of 20 predicted protein domains were identified in the putative two-component ORFs that, in addition to the histidine kinase and receiver domains, also includes sensor and signalling domains. The detailed structure of these putative proteins is shown, as is the distribution of each class of two-component genes in each species. Potential members of orthologous groups have been identified, as have any potential operons containing two or more two-component genes. The number of two-component genes in those Euryarchaeal species which have them seems to be linked more to lifestyle and habitat than to genome complexity, with most examples being found in Methanospirillum hungatei, Haloarcula marismortui, Methanococcoides burtonii and the mesophilic Methanosarcinales group. The large numbers of two-component genes in these species may reflect a greater requirement for internal regulation. Phylogenetic analysis of orthologous groups of five different protein classes, three probably involved in regulating taxis, suggests that most of these ORFs have been inherited vertically from an ancestral Euryarchaeal species and point to a limited number of key horizontal gene transfer events.
PMCID: PMC2685588  PMID: 16877318
histidine kinase; hybrid kinase; response regulator

Results 1-10 (10)