Motility driven by rotational movement of flagella allows bacteria and archaea to seek favourable conditions and escape toxic ones. However, archaeal flagella share structural similarities with bacterial type IV pili rather than bacterial flagella. The Haloferax volcanii genome contains two flagellin genes, flgA1 and flgA2. While FlgA1 has been shown to be a major flagellin, the function of FlgA2 is elusive. In this study, it was determined that although FlgA2 by itself does not confer motility to non-motile ΔflgA1 Hfx. volcanii, a subset of these mutant cells contains a flagellum. Consistent with FlgA2 being assembled into functional flagella, FlgA1 expressed from a plasmid can only complement a ΔflgA1 strain when co-expressed with chromosomal or plasmid-encoded FlgA2. Surprisingly, a mutant strain lacking FlgA2, but expressing chromosomally encoded FlgA1, is hypermotile, a phenotype that is accompanied by an increased number of flagella per cell, as well as an increased flagellum length. Site-directed mutagenesis resulting in early translational termination of flgA2 suggests that the hypermotility of the ΔflgA2 strain is not due to transcriptional regulation. This, and the fact that plasmid-encoded FlgA2 expression in a ΔflgA2 strain does not reduce its hypermotility, suggests a possible regulatory role for FlgA2 that depends on the relative abundance of FlgA1. Taken together, our results indicate that FlgA2 plays both structural and regulatory roles in Hfx. volcanii flagella-dependent motility. Future studies will build upon the data presented here to elucidate the significance of the hypermotility of this ΔflgA2 mutant, and will illuminate the regulation and function of archaeal flagella.
Cell surfaces are decorated by a variety of proteins that facilitate interactions with their environments and support cell stability. These secreted proteins are anchored to the cell by mechanisms that are diverse, and, in archaea, poorly understood. Recently published in silico data suggest that in some species a subset of secreted euryarchaeal proteins, which includes the S-layer glycoprotein, is processed and covalently linked to the cell membrane by enzymes referred to as archaeosortases. In silico work led to the proposal that an independent, sortase-like system for proteolysis-coupled, carboxy-terminal lipid modification exists in bacteria (exosortase) and archaea (archaeosortase). Here, we provide the first in vivo characterization of an archaeosortase in the haloarchaeal model organism Haloferax volcanii. Deletion of the artA gene (HVO_0915) resulted in multiple biological phenotypes: (a) poor growth, especially under low-salt conditions, (b) alterations in cell shape and the S-layer, (c) impaired motility, suppressors of which still exhibit poor growth, and (d) impaired conjugation. We studied one of the ArtA substrates, the S-layer glycoprotein, using detailed proteomic analysis. While the carboxy-terminal region of S-layer glycoproteins, consisting of a threonine-rich O-glycosylated region followed by a hydrophobic transmembrane helix, has been notoriously resistant to any proteomic peptide identification, we were able to identify two overlapping peptides from the transmembrane domain present in the ΔartA strain but not in the wild-type strain. This clearly shows that ArtA is involved in carboxy-terminal posttranslational processing of the S-layer glycoprotein. As it is known from previous studies that a lipid is covalently attached to the carboxy-terminal region of the S-layer glycoprotein, our data strongly support the conclusion that archaeosortase functions analogously to sortase, mediating proteolysis-coupled, covalent cell surface attachment.
Archaea have evolved fascinating surface structures allowing rapid adaptation to changing environments. The archaeal surface appendages display such diverse biological roles as motility, adhesion, biofilm formation, exchange of genetic material and species-specific interactions and, in turn, increase fitness of the cells. Intriguingly, despite sharing the same functions with their bacterial counterparts, the assembly mechanism of many archaeal surface structures is rather related to assembly of bacterial type IV pili. This review summarizes our state-of-the-art knowledge about unique structural and biochemical properties of archaeal surface appendages with a particular focus on archaeal type IV pili-like structures. The latter comprise not only widely distributed archaella (formerly known as archaeal flagella), but also different highly specialized archaeal pili, which are often restricted to certain species. Recent findings regarding assembly mechanisms, structural aspects and physiological roles of these type IV pili-like structures will be discussed in detail. Recently, first regulatory proteins involved in transition from both planktonic to sessile lifestyle and in assembly of archaella were identified. To conclude, we provide novel insights into regulatory mechanisms underlying the assembly of archaeal surface structures.
Archaea display a variety of type IV pili on their surface and employ them in different physiological functions. In the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius the most abundant surface structure is the aap pilus (archaeal adhesive pilus). The construction of in frame deletions of the aap genes revealed that all the five genes (aapA, aapX, aapE, aapF, aapB) are indispensible for assembly of the pilus and an impact on surface motility and biofilm formation was observed. Our analyses revealed that there exists a regulatory cross-talk between the expression of aap genes and archaella (formerly archaeal flagella) genes during different growth phases. The structure of the aap pilus is entirely different from the known bacterial type IV pili as well as other archaeal type IV pili. An aap pilus displayed 3 stranded helices where there is a rotation per subunit of ∼ 138° and a rise per subunit of ∼ 5.7 Å. The filaments have a diameter of ∼ 110 Å and the resolution was judged to be ∼ 9 Å. We concluded that small changes in sequence might be amplified by large changes in higher-order packing. Our finding of an extraordinary stability of aap pili possibly represents an adaptation to harsh environments that S. acidocaldarius encounters.
Bacterial motility is driven by the rotation of flagellar filaments that supercoil. The supercoiling involves the switching of coiled-coil protofilaments between two different states. In archaea, the flagellar filaments responsible for motility are formed by proteins with distinct homology in their N-terminal portion to bacterial Type IV pilins. The bacterial pilins have a single N-terminal hydrophobic α-helix, not the coiled coil found in flagellin. We have used electron cryo-microscopy to study the adhesion filaments from the archaeon Ignicoccus hospitalis. While I. hospitalis is non-motile, these filaments make transitions between rigid stretches and curved regions and appear morphologically similar to true archaeal flagellar filaments. A resolution of ~7.5Å allows us to unambiguously build a model for the packing of these N-terminal α-helices, and this packing is different from several bacterial Type IV pili whose structure has been analyzed by electron microscopy and modeling. Our results show that the mechanism responsible for the supercoiling of bacterial flagellar filaments cannot apply to archaeal filaments.
The ability of microorganisms to sense and respond to sudden changes in their environment is often based on regulatory systems comprising reversible protein phosphorylation. The archaellum (former: archaeal flagellum) is used for motility in Archaea and therefore functionally analogous to the bacterial flagellum. In contrast with archaellum-mediated movement in certain members of the Euryarchaeota, this process, including its regulation, remains poorly studied in crenarchaeal organisms like Sulfolobus species. Recently, it was shown in Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, that tryptone limiting conditions led to the induction of archaella expression and assembly (Lassak et al., 2012). Here we have identified two proteins, the FHA domain-containing protein ArnA and the vWA domain-containing protein ArnB that are involved in regulating archaella expression in S. acidocaldarius. Both proteins are phosphorylated by protein kinases in vitro and interact strongly in vivo. Phenotypic analyses revealed that these two proteins are repressors of archaella expression. These results represent the first step in understanding the networks that underlie regulation of cellular motility in Crenarchaeota and emphasize the importance of protein phosphorylation in the regulation of cellular processes in the Archaea.
Although the genome of Haloferax volcanii contains genes (flgA1-flgA2) that encode flagellins and others that encode proteins involved in flagellar assembly, previous reports have concluded that H. volcanii is nonmotile. Contrary to these reports, we have now identified conditions under which H. volcanii is motile. Moreover, we have determined that an H. volcanii deletion mutant lacking flagellin genes is not motile. However, unlike flagella characterized in other prokaryotes, including other archaea, the H. volcanii flagella do not appear to play a significant role in surface adhesion. While flagella often play similar functional roles in bacteria and archaea, the processes involved in the biosynthesis of archaeal flagella do not resemble those involved in assembling bacterial flagella but, instead, are similar to those involved in producing bacterial type IV pili. Consistent with this observation, we have determined that, in addition to disrupting preflagellin processing, deleting pibD, which encodes the preflagellin peptidase, prevents the maturation of other H. volcanii type IV pilin-like proteins. Moreover, in addition to abolishing swimming motility, and unlike the flgA1-flgA2 deletion, deleting pibD eliminates the ability of H. volcanii to adhere to a glass surface, indicating that a nonflagellar type IV pilus-like structure plays a critical role in H. volcanii surface adhesion.
Motility structures, called flagella, have been described in all three domains of life: Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya. These structures are well studied in both Bacteria and Eukarya. However, already in eukaryotes there exists some confusion as to whether these structures should actually be called cilia. With increased studies conducted on organisms of the third domain of life, the Archaea, it has become clear that the archaeal flagellum only functionally appears similar to the bacterial flagellum, whereas it structurally resembles a bacterial type IV pilus. To resolve confusion due to unclear nomenclature, we propose renaming the archaeal flagellum as the 'archaellum'. This will make clear that the archaellum and the bacterial flagellum are two distinct structures that happen to both be used to enable microorganisms to swim.
The structure of pili from the archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis is unlike that of any bacterial pili. However, genetic analysis of the genes involved in the formation of these pili has been lacking until this study. Pili were isolated from a nonflagellated (ΔflaK) mutant and shown by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to consist primarily of subunits with an apparent molecular mass of 17 kDa. In-frame deletions were created in three genes, MMP0233, MMP0236, and MMP0237, which encode proteins with bacterial type IV pilin-like signal peptides previously identified by in silico methodology as likely candidates for pilus structural proteins. Deletion of MMP0236 or MMP0237 resulted in mutant cells completely devoid of pili on the cell surface, while deletion of the third pilin-like gene, MMP0233, resulted in cells greatly reduced in the number of pili on the surface. Complementation with the deleted gene in each case returned the cells to a piliated state. Surprisingly, mass spectrometry analysis of purified pili identified the major structural pilin as another type IV pilin-like protein, MMP1685, whose gene is located outside the first pilus locus. This protein was found to be glycosylated with an N-linked branched pentasaccharide glycan. Deletion and complementation analysis confirmed that MMP1685 is required for piliation.
Type IV pili play important roles in a wide array of processes, including surface adhesion and twitching motility. Although archaeal genomes encode a diverse set of type IV pilus subunits, the functions for most remain unknown. We have now characterized six Haloferax volcanii pilins, PilA[1-6], each containing an identical 30-amino-acid N-terminal hydrophobic motif that is part of a larger highly conserved domain of unknown function (Duf1628). Deletion mutants lacking up to five of the six pilin genes display no significant adhesion defects; however, H. volcanii lacking all six pilins (ΔpilA[1-6]) does not adhere to glass or plastic. Consistent with these results, the expression of any one of these pilins in trans is sufficient to produce functional pili in the ΔpilA[1-6] strain. PilA1His and PilA2His only partially rescue this phenotype, whereas ΔpilA[1-6] strains expressing PilA3His or PilA4His adhere even more strongly than the parental strain. Most surprisingly, expressing either PilA5His or PilA6His in the ΔpilA[1-6] strain results in microcolony formation. A hybrid protein in which the conserved N terminus of the mature PilA1His is replaced with the corresponding N domain of FlgA1 is processed by the prepilin peptidase, but it does not assemble functional pili, leading us to conclude that Duf1628 can be annotated as the N terminus of archaeal PilA adhesion pilins. Finally, the pilin prediction program, FlaFind, which was trained primarily on archaeal flagellin sequences, was successfully refined to more accurately predict pilins based on the in vivo verification of PilA[1-6].
N-glycosylation is a protein posttranslational modification found in all three domains of life. Many surface proteins in Archaea, including S-layer proteins, pilins, and archaellins (archaeal flagellins) are known to contain N-linked glycans. In Methanococcus maripaludis, the archaellins are modified at multiple sites with an N-linked tetrasaccharide with the structure Sug-1,4-β-ManNAc3NAmA6Thr-1,4-β-GlcNAc3NAcA-1,3-β-GalNAc, where Sug is the unique sugar (5S)-2-acetamido-2,4-dideoxy-5-O-methyl-α-l-erythro-hexos-5-ulo-1,5-pyranose. In this study, four genes--mmp1084, mmp1085, mmp1086, and mmp1087--were targeted to determine their potential involvement of the biosynthesis of the sugar components in the N-glycan, based on bioinformatics analysis and proximity to a number of genes which have been previously demonstrated to be involved in the N-glycosylation pathway. The genes mmp1084 to mmp1087 were shown to be cotranscribed, and in-frame deletions of each gene as well as a Δmmp1086Δmmp1087 double mutant were successfully generated. All mutants were archaellated and motile. Mass spectrometry examination of purified archaella revealed that in Δmmp1084 mutant cells, the threonine linked to the third sugar of the glycan was missing, indicating a putative threonine transferase function of MMP1084. Similar analysis of the archaella of the Δmmp1085 mutant cells demonstrated that the glycan lacked the methyl group at the C-5 position of the terminal sugar, indicating that MMP1085 is a methyltransferase involved in the biosynthesis of this unique sugar. Deletion of the remaining two genes, mmp1086 and mmp1087, either singularly or together, had no effect on the structure of the archaellin N-glycan. Because of their demonstrated involvement in the N-glycosylation pathway, we designated mmp1084 as aglU and mmp1085 as aglV.
The protein structure of the motor that propels archaea has been characterized for the first time by a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and ...
Archaella are the archaeal motility structure, which are structurally similar to gram-negative bacterial type IV pili but functionally resemble bacterial flagella. Structural and biochemical data of archaellum subunits are missing. FlaX, a conserved subunit in crenarchaeal archaella, formed high molecular weight complexes that adapted a ring-like structure with an approximate diameter of 30 nm. The C-terminus of FlaX was not only involved in the oligomerization, but also essential for FlaX interaction with FlaI, the bifunctional ATPase which is involved in assembly and rotation of the archaellum. This study gives first insights in the assembly apparatus of archaella.
N-glycosylation, a posttranslational modification required for the accurate folding and stability of many proteins, has been observed in organisms of all domains of life. Although the haloarchaeal S-layer glycoprotein was the first prokaryotic glycoprotein identified, little is known about the glycosylation of other haloarchaeal proteins. We demonstrate here that the glycosylation of Haloferax volcanii flagellins requires archaeal glycosylation (Agl) components involved in S-layer glycosylation and that the deletion of any Hfx. volcanii agl gene impairs its swimming motility to various extents. A comparison of proteins in CsCl density gradient centrifugation fractions from supernatants of wild-type Hfx. volcanii and deletion mutants lacking the oligosaccharyltransferase AglB suggests that when the Agl glycosylation pathway is disrupted, cells lack stable flagella, which purification studies indicate consist of a major flagellin, FlgA1, and a minor flagellin, FlgA2. Mass spectrometric analyses of FlgA1 confirm that its three predicted N-glycosylation sites are modified with covalently linked pentasaccharides having the same mass as that modifying its S-layer glycoprotein. Finally, the replacement of any of three predicted N-glycosylated asparagines of FlgA1 renders cells nonmotile, providing direct evidence for the first time that the N-glycosylation of archaeal flagellins is critical for motility. These results provide insight into the role that glycosylation plays in the assembly and function of Hfx. volcanii flagella and demonstrate that Hfx. volcanii flagellins are excellent reporter proteins for the study of haloarchaeal glycosylation processes.
Archaea have a variety of surface appendages including archaella (archaeal flagella), pili, hami and cannulae. While expected to be energetically expensive to express, studies focused on the regulation of such structures are nevertheless lacking. The current paper from Sonja Albers group (Reimann et al. 2012) identifies a two partner system called ArnA and ArnB in Sulfolobus acidocaldarius that interact strongly with each other and are repressors of archaella expression while also having an enhancing effect on the appearance of type IV pili. ArnA is a forkhead associated domain-containing protein while ArnB is a von Willebrand domain-containing protein. Both proteins can be phosphorylated in vitro by S. acidocaldarius protein kinases. The repression of archaella expression is dependent on dephosphorylation of the Arn proteins. Deletions of arnA or arnB resulted in increased levels of archaella operon proteins and cells that were hypermotile due to increased archaellation. Direct effects of ArnA/ArnB on transcription from fla promoters were demonstrated using arnA and arnB deletion strains but only a modest increase in transcription was demonstrated in each mutant suggesting that the repression effect observed may be due to protein-protein interactions. This paper represents a significant step forward in our understanding of archaeal surface structure biogenesis.
Secreted proteins make up a significant percentage of a prokaryotic proteome and play critical roles in important cellular processes such as polymer degradation, nutrient uptake, signal transduction, cell wall biosynthesis, and motility. The majority of archaeal proteins are believed to be secreted either in an unfolded conformation via the universally conserved Sec pathway or in a folded conformation via the Twin arginine transport (Tat) pathway. Extensive in vivo and in silico analyses of N-terminal signal peptides that target proteins to these pathways have led to the development of computational tools that not only predict Sec and Tat substrates with high accuracy but also provide information about signal peptide processing and targeting. Predictions therefore include indications as to whether a substrate is a soluble secreted protein, a membrane or cell wall anchored protein, or a surface structure subunit, and whether it is targeted for post-translational modification such as glycosylation or the addition of a lipid. The use of these in silico tools, in combination with biochemical and genetic analyses of transport pathways and their substrates, has resulted in improved predictions of the subcellular localization of archaeal secreted proteins, allowing for a more accurate annotation of archaeal proteomes, and has led to the identification of potential adaptations to extreme environments, as well as phyla-specific pathways among the archaea. A more comprehensive understanding of the transport pathways used and post-translational modifications of secreted archaeal proteins will also facilitate the identification and heterologous expression of commercially valuable archaeal enzymes.
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Proteinaceous, hair-like appendages known as fimbriae or pili commonly extend from the surface of prokaryotic cells and serve important functions such as cell adhesion, biofilm formation, motility and DNA transfer. Here we show that a novel group of archaea from cold, sulphidic springs has developed cell surface appendages of an unexpectedly high complexity with a well-defined base-to-top organization. It represents a new class of filamentous cell appendages, for which the term ‘hamus’ is proposed. Each archaeal cell is surrounded by a halo of about 100 hami, which mediate strong adhesion of the cells to surfaces of different chemical composition. The hami are mainly composed of 120 kDa subunits and remained stable in a broad temperature and pH range (0–70°C; 0.5–11.5). Electron microscopy and cryo-electron tomography revealed that the hamus filament possesses a helical basic structure. At periodic distances, three prickles emanate from the filament, giving it the character of industrially produced barbwire. At its distal end the hami carry a tripartite, barbed grappling hook (60 nm in diameter). The architecture of this molecular hook is reminiscent of man-made fishhooks, grapples and anchors. It appears that nature has developed a perfect mechanical nano-tool in the course of biological evolution, which also might prove useful in the field of nanobiotechnology
Sugar binding proteins of the thermoacidophile Sulfolobus solfataricus function together with ABC transporters in the uptake of sugars. They are synthesized as precursors with a class III signal peptide that are normally found in archaeal flagellins and bacterial type IV pilins. The functional expression of sugar binding proteins at the cell surface is dependent on the bindosome assembly system (Bas) that is homologous to bacterial type IV pilin assembly systems. The Bas system consists of an assembly ATPase, BasE; a membrane anchoring protein, BasF; and three small class III signal peptide containing proteins BasABC. Expression of BasEF in a S. solfataricus ΔbasEF strain restored the uptake of glucose, while an ATPase mutant of BasE was unable to complement. BasEF was detergent-extracted from S. solfataricus membranes as a stable protein complex. Solute binding proteins can be extracted from the cell surface as two high molecular mass complexes of 600 and 400 kDa, wherein the largest complex also contains the main S-layer protein SlaA. Electron microscopic analysis of the cell surface of the wild-type and ΔbasEF strain indicates that the absence of the BasEF complex causes an alteration in cell morphology and the corrugation of the S-layer pattern that is reversed by complementation with the BasEF complex. These results suggest an interaction between the S-layer and the sugar binding proteins that contribute to cell shape.