- Nitrogen regulation of protein–protein interactions and transcript levels of GlnK PII regulator and AmtB ammonium transporter homologs in Archaea (2013)
- Gene homologs of GlnK PII regulators and AmtB-type ammonium transporters are often paired on prokaryotic genomes, suggesting these proteins share an ancient functional relationship. Here, we demonstrate for the first time in Archaea that GlnK associates with AmtB in membrane fractions after ammonium shock, thus, providing a further insight into GlnK-AmtB as an ancient nitrogen sensor pair. For this work, Haloferax mediterranei was advanced for study through the generation of a pyrE2-based counterselection system that was used for targeted gene deletion and expression of Flag-tagged proteins from their native promoters. AmtB1-Flag was detected in membrane fractions of cells grown on nitrate and was found to coimmunoprecipitate with GlnK after ammonium shock. Thus, in analogy to bacteria, the archaeal GlnK PII may block the AmtB1 ammonium transporter under nitrogen-rich conditions. In addition to this regulated protein–protein interaction, the archaeal amtB-glnK gene pairs were found to be highly regulated by nitrogen availability with transcript levels high under conditions of nitrogen limitation and low during nitrogen excess. While transcript levels of glnK-amtB are similarly regulated by nitrogen availability in bacteria, transcriptional regulators of the bacterial glnK promoter including activation by the two-component signal transduction proteins NtrC (GlnG, NRI) and NtrB (GlnL, NRII) and sigma factor σN (σ54) are not conserved in archaea suggesting a novel mechanism of transcriptional control.
- A comprehensive analysis of the importance of translation initiation factors for Haloferax volcanii applying deletion and conditional depletion mutants (2013)
- Translation is an important step in gene expression. The initiation of translation is phylogenetically diverse, since currently five different initiation mechanisms are known. For bacteria the three initiation factors IF1 – IF3 are described in contrast to archaea and eukaryotes, which contain a considerably higher number of initiation factor genes. As eukaryotes and archaea use a non-overlapping set of initiation mechanisms, orthologous proteins of both domains do not necessarily fulfill the same function. The genome of Haloferax volcanii contains 14 annotated genes that encode (subunits of) initiation factors. To gain a comprehensive overview of the importance of these genes, it was attempted to construct single gene deletion mutants of all genes. In 9 cases single deletion mutants were successfully constructed, showing that the respective genes are not essential. In contrast, the genes encoding initiation factors aIF1, aIF2γ, aIF5A, aIF5B, and aIF6 were found to be essential. Factors aIF1A and aIF2β are encoded by two orthologous genes in H. volcanii. Attempts to generate double mutants failed in both cases, indicating that also these factors are essential. A translatome analysis of one of the single aIF2β deletion mutants revealed that the translational efficiency of the second ortholog was enhanced tenfold and thus the two proteins can replace one another. The phenotypes of the single deletion mutants also revealed that the two aIF1As and aIF2βs have redundant but not identical functions. Remarkably, the gene encoding aIF2α, a subunit of aIF2 involved in initiator tRNA binding, could be deleted. However, the mutant had a severe growth defect under all tested conditions. Conditional depletion mutants were generated for the five essential genes. The phenotypes of deletion mutants and conditional depletion mutants were compared to that of the wild-type under various conditions, and growth characteristics are discussed.
- Generation and phenotyping of a collection of sRNA gene deletion mutants of the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii (2014)
- The haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii was shown to contain 145 intergenic and 45 antisense sRNAs. In a comprehensive approach to unravel various biological roles of haloarchaeal sRNAs in vivo, 27 sRNA genes were selected and deletion mutants were generated. The phenotypes of these mutants were compared to that of the parent strain under ten different conditions, i.e. growth on four different carbon sources, growth at three different salt concentrations, and application of four different stress conditions. In addition, cell morphologies in exponential and stationary phase were observed. Furthermore, swarming of 17 mutants was analyzed. 24 of the 27 mutants exhibited a difference from the parent strain under at least one condition, revealing that haloarchaeal sRNAs are involved in metabolic regulation, growth under extreme conditions, regulation of morphology and behavior, and stress adaptation. Notably, 7 deletion mutants showed a gain of function phenotype, which has not yet been described for any other prokaryotic sRNA gene deletion mutant. Comparison of the transcriptomes of one sRNA gene deletion mutant and the parent strain led to the identification of differentially expressed genes. Genes for flagellins and chemotaxis were up-regulated in the mutant, in accordance with its gain of function swarming phenotype. While the deletion mutant analysis underscored that haloarchaeal sRNAs are involved in many biological functions, the degree of conservation is extremely low. Only 3 of the 27 genes are conserved in more than 10 haloarchaeal species. 22 of the 27 genes are confined to H. volcanii, indicating a fast evolution of haloarchaeal sRNA genes.
- Haloferax volcanii, a Prokaryotic Species that Does Not Use the Shine Dalgarno Mechanism for Translation Initiation at 5′-UTRs (2014)
- It was long assumed that translation initiation in prokaryotes generally occurs via the so-called Shine Dalgarno (SD) mechanism. Recently, it became clear that translation initiation in prokaryotes is more heterogeneous. In the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii, the majority of transcripts is leaderless and most transcripts with a 5′-UTR lack a SD motif. Nevertheless, a bioinformatic analysis predicted that 20–30% of all genes are preceded by a SD motif in haloarchaea. To analyze the importance of the SD mechanism for translation initiation in haloarchaea experimentally the monocistronic sod gene was chosen, which contains a 5′-UTR with an extensive SD motif of seven nucleotides and a length of 19 nt, the average length of 5′UTRs in this organism. A translational fusion of part of the sod gene with the dhfr reporter gene was constructed. A mutant series was generated that matched the SD motif from zero to eight positions, respectively. Surprisingly, there was no correlation between the base pairing ability between transcripts and 16S rRNA and translational efficiency in vivo under several different growth conditions. Furthermore, complete replacement of the SD motif by three unrelated sequences did not reduce translational efficiency. The results indicate that H. volcanii does not make use of the SD mechanism for translation initiation in 5′-UTRs. A genome analysis revealed that while the number of SD motifs in 5′-UTRs is rare, their fraction within open reading frames is high. Possible biological functions for intragenic SD motifs are discussed, including re-initiation of translation at distal genes in operons.
- DNA as a phosphate storage polymer and the alternative advantages of polyploidy for growth or survival (2014)
- Haloferax volcanii uses extracellular DNA as a source for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. However, it can also grow to a limited extend in the absence of added phosphorous, indicating that it contains an intracellular phosphate storage molecule. As Hfx. volcanii is polyploid, it was investigated whether DNA might be used as storage polymer, in addition to its role as genetic material. It could be verified that during phosphate starvation cells multiply by distributing as well as by degrading their chromosomes. In contrast, the number of ribosomes stayed constant, revealing that ribosomes are distributed to descendant cells, but not degraded. These results suggest that the phosphate of phosphate-containing biomolecules (other than DNA and RNA) originates from that stored in DNA, not in rRNA. Adding phosphate to chromosome depleted cells rapidly restores polyploidy. Quantification of desiccation survival of cells with different ploidy levels showed that under phosphate starvation Hfx. volcanii diminishes genetic advantages of polyploidy in favor of cell multiplication. The consequences of the usage of genomic DNA as phosphate storage polymer are discussed as well as the hypothesis that DNA might have initially evolved in evolution as a storage polymer, and the various genetic benefits evolved later.
- Polyploidy in haloarchaea: advantages for growth and survival (2014)
- The investigated haloarchaeal species, Halobacterium salinarum, Haloferax mediterranei, and H. volcanii, have all been shown to be polyploid. They contain several replicons that have independent copy number regulation, and most have a higher copy number during exponential growth phase than in stationary phase. The possible evolutionary advantages of polyploidy for haloarchaea, most of which have experimental support for at least one species, are discussed. These advantages include a low mutation rate and high resistance toward X-ray irradiation and desiccation, which depend on homologous recombination. For H. volcanii, it has been shown that gene conversion operates in the absence of selection, which leads to the equalization of genome copies. On the other hand, selective forces might lead to heterozygous cells, which have been verified in the laboratory. Additional advantages of polyploidy are survival over geological times in halite deposits as well as at extreme conditions on earth and at simulated Mars conditions. Recently, it was found that H. volcanii uses genomic DNA as genetic material and as a storage polymer for phosphate. In the absence of phosphate, H. volcanii dramatically decreases its genome copy number, thereby enabling cell multiplication, but diminishing the genetic advantages of polyploidy. Stable storage of phosphate is proposed as an alternative driving force for the emergence of DNA in early evolution. Several additional potential advantages of polyploidy are discussed that have not been addressed experimentally for haloarchaea. An outlook summarizes selected current trends and possible future developments.
- Halophilic Archaea Cultivated from Surface Sterilized Middle-Late Eocene Rock Salt Are Polyploid (2014)
- Live bacteria and archaea have been isolated from several rock salt deposits of up to hundreds of millions of years of age from all around the world. A key factor affecting their longevity is the ability to keep their genomic DNA intact, for which efficient repair mechanisms are needed. Polyploid microbes are known to have an increased resistance towards mutations and DNA damage, and it has been suggested that microbes from deeply buried rock salt would carry several copies of their genomes. Here, cultivable halophilic microbes were isolated from a surface sterilized middle-late Eocene (38–41 million years ago) rock salt sample, drilled from the depth of 800 m at Yunying salt mine, China. Eight unique isolates were obtained, which represented two haloarchaeal genera, Halobacterium and Halolamina. We used real-time PCR to show that our isolates are polyploid, with genome copy numbers of 11–14 genomes per cell in exponential growth phase. The ploidy level was slightly downregulated in stationary growth phase, but the cells still had an average genome copy number of 6–8. The polyploidy of halophilic archaea living in ancient rock salt might be a factor explaining how these organisms are able to overcome the challenge of prolonged survival during their entombment.
- Functional genomic and advanced genetic studies reveal novel insights into the metabolism, regulation, and biology of Haloferax volcanii (2011)
- The genome sequence of Haloferax volcanii is available and several comparative genomic in silico studies were performed that yielded novel insight for example into protein export, RNA modifications, small non-coding RNAs, and ubiquitin-like Small Archaeal Modifier Proteins. The full range of functional genomic methods has been established and results from transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic studies are discussed. Notably, Hfx. volcanii is together with Halobacterium salinarum the only prokaryotic species for which a translatome analysis has been performed. The results revealed that the fraction of translationally-regulated genes in haloarchaea is as high as in eukaryotes. A highly efficient genetic system has been established that enables the application of libraries as well as the parallel generation of genomic deletion mutants. Facile mutant generation is complemented by the possibility to culture Hfx. volcanii in microtiter plates, allowing the phenotyping of mutant collections. Genetic approaches are currently used to study diverse biological questions–from replication to posttranslational modification—and selected results are discussed. Taken together, the wealth of functional genomic and genetic tools make Hfx. volcanii a bona fide archaeal model species, which has enabled the generation of important results in recent years and will most likely generate further breakthroughs in the future.