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Influence of cell surface structures on cr... [Environ Microbiol. 2012] - PubMed - NCBI

The thermoacidophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius displays three distinct type IV pili-like structures on its surface: (i) the flagellum, (ii) the UV-induced pili and (iii) the adhesive pili. In bacteria, surface appendages play an important role in the spatial organization of cells from initial surface attachment to the development of mature community structures. To investigate the influence of the diverse set of type IV pili-like structures in S. acidocaldarius, single, double and triple mutants lacking the cell surface appendages were constructed and analysed for their behaviour in attachment assays and during biofilm formation. A heat stable green fluorescent protein was employed the first time in a hyperthermophilic archaeon. A codon adjusted eCGP123 was expressed to study mixed biofilms of different deletion mutants to understand the interplay of the surface structures during biofilm formation. During this process the deletion of the adhesive pili and UV-induced pili led to the most pronounced effects, either an increase in cell density or increased cluster formation respectively. However, all three cell surface appendages played a role in the colonization of surfaces and only the interplay of all three appendages leads to the observed wild-type biofilm phenotype.
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UV-inducible DNA exchange in hyperthermophilic... [Mol Microbiol. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

Archaea, like bacteria and eukaryotes, contain proteins involved in various mechanisms of DNA repair, highlighting the importance of these processes for all forms of life. Species of the order Sulfolobales of hyperthermophilic crenarchaeota are equipped with a strongly UV-inducible type IV pilus system that promotes cellular aggregation. Here we demonstrate by fluorescence in situ hybridization that cellular aggregates are formed based on a species-specific recognition process and that UV-induced cellular aggregation mediates chromosomal marker exchange with high frequency. Recombination rates exceeded those of uninduced cultures by up to three orders of magnitude. Knockout strains of Sulfolobus acidocaldarius incapable of pilus production could not self-aggregate, but were partners in mating experiments with wild-type strains indicating that one cellular partner can mediate the DNA transfer. Since pilus knockout strains showed decreased survival upon UV treatment, we conclude that the UV-inducible DNA transfer process and subsequent homologous recombination represents an important mechanism to maintain chromosome integrity in Sulfolobus. It might also contribute substantially to the frequent chromosomal DNA exchange and horizontal gene transfer in these archaea in their natural habitat.
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Macromolecular fingerprinting of sulfolobus s... [J Proteome Res. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

Macromolecular fingerprinting of sulfolobus s... [J Proteome Res. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Microorganisms in nature often live in surface-associated sessile communities, encased in a self-produced matrix, referred to as biofilms. Biofilms have been well studied in bacteria but in a limited way for archaea. We have recently characterized biofilm formation in three closely related hyperthermophilic crenarchaeotes: Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, S. solfataricus, and S. tokodaii. These strains form different communities ranging from simple carpet structures in S. solfataricus to high density tower-like structures in S. acidocaldarius under static condition. Here, we combine spectroscopic, proteomic, and transcriptomic analyses to describe physiological and regulatory features associated with biofilms. Spectroscopic analysis reveals that in comparison to planktonic life-style, biofilm life-style has distinctive influence on the physiology of each Sulfolobus spp. Proteomic and transcriptomic data show that biofilm-forming life-style is strain specific (eg ca. 15% of the S. acidocaldarius genes were differently expressed, S. solfataricus and S. tokodaii had ~3.4 and ~1%, respectively). The -omic data showed that regulated ORFs were widely distributed in basic cellular functions, including surface modifications. Several regulated genes are common to biofilm-forming cells in all three species. One of the most striking common response genes include putative Lrs14-like transcriptional regulators, indicating their possible roles as a key regulatory factor in biofilm development.
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The sulfolobicin genes of Sulfolobus acidocaldar... [J Bacteriol. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

The sulfolobicin genes of Sulfolobus acidocaldar... [J Bacteriol. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Crenarchaea, such as Sulfolobus acidocaldarius and Sulfolobus tokodaii, produce antimicrobial proteins called sulfolobicins. These antimicrobial proteins inhibit the growth of closely related species. Here we report the identification of the sulfolobicin-encoding genes in S. acidocaldarius. The active sulfolobicin comprises two proteins that are equipped with a classical signal sequence. These proteins are secreted by the cells and found to be membrane vesicle associated. Gene inactivation studies demonstrate that both proteins are required for the bacteriostatic antimicrobial activity. Sulfolobicins constitute a novel class of antimicrobial proteins without detectable homology to any other protein.
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The S-layer glycoprotein of the crenarchaeote Sulfol... [Archaea. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

The S-layer glycoprotein of the crenarchaeote Sulfol... [Archaea. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
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 L(1004)-Q(1395). 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 Glc(1)Man(2)GlcNAc(2) plus 6-sulfoquinovose (QuiS), consistent with the tribranched hexasaccharide previously reported in the cytochrome b(558/566) 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.
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Conditions for gene disruption by homologous recombi... [Archaea. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI

Conditions for gene disruption by homologous recombi... [Archaea. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
The construction of directed gene deletion mutants is an essential tool in molecular biology that allows functional studies on the role of genes in their natural environment. For hyperthermophilic archaea, it has been difficult to obtain a reliable system to construct such mutants. However, during the past years, systems have been developed for Thermococcus kodakarensis and two Sulfolobus species, S. acidocaldarius and derivatives of S. solfataricus 98/2. Here we describe an optimization of the method for integration of exogenous DNA into S. solfataricus PBL 2025, an S. solfataricus 98/2 derivative, based on lactose auxotrophy that now allows for routine gene inactivation.
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Acidianus, Sulfolobus and Metallosphaera surfa... [Mol Microbiol. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

The cell walls of Sulfolobales species consist of proteinaceous S-layers assembled from two polypeptides, SlaA and SlaB. We isolated the large S-layer protein of Acidianus ambivalens and both S-layer subunits of Sulfolobus solfataricus and Metallosphaera sedula, respectively. The slaAB genes, lying adjacently in the chromosomes, are constitutively transcribed as bicistronic operons in A. ambivalens and S. solfataricus. A smaller slaA transcript appeared in Northern hybridizations of A. ambivalens RNA. PCRs experiments showed that 80-85% of the transcripts stop at an oligo-T terminator downstream of slaA while 15-20% are read through to a second terminator downstream of slaB. The bicistronic operons including promoter and terminator regions are conserved in the Sulfolobales. While no SlaA homologue is found outside the Sulfolobales, SlaB is distantly similar to S-layer proteins of other Crenarchaeota, e.g. the Staphylothermus marinus tetrabrachion. Molecular modelling suggests SlaBs to be composed of 2-3 consecutive beta sandwich domains, a coiled-coil domain of 15-17 nm in length and a C-terminal transmembrane helix. Electron microscopy shows crystalline protein arrays with triangular and hexagonal pores. We propose that the mushroom-shaped 'unit cells' of the Sulfolobales' S-layers consist of three SlaBs anchoring the complex in the membrane and six SlaAs forming the detergent-resistant outer sacculus.
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Shaping the archaeal cell envelope. [Archaea. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Shaping the archaeal cell envelope. [Archaea. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
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.
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Proteomic analysis of secreted membrane vesicl... [Extremophiles. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

The crenarchaea Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, S. solfataricus and S. tokodaii, release membrane vesicles into the medium. These membrane vesicles consist of tetraether lipids and are coated with an S-layer. A proteomic analysis reveals the presence of proteins homologous to subunits of the eukaryotic endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT). Immunodetection of one of these homologs suggest a cell surface localization in intact cells. These data suggest that the membrane vesicles in Sulfolobus sp. emerge from a specific budding process with similarity to the endosomal sorting pathway.
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The archaeal exosome localizes to the membrane. [FEBS Lett. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

We studied the cellular localization of the archaeal exosome, an RNA-processing protein complex containing orthologs of the eukaryotic proteins Rrp41, Rrp42, Rrp4 and Csl4, and an archaea-specific subunit annotated as DnaG. Fractionation of cell-free extracts of Sulfolobus solfataricus in sucrose density gradients revealed that DnaG and the active-site comprising subunit Rrp41 are enriched together with surface layer proteins in a yellow colored ring, implicating that the exosome is membrane-bound. In accordance with this assumption, DnaG and Rrp41 were detected at the periphery of the cell by immunofluorescence microscopy. Our finding suggests that RNA processing in Archaea is spatially organized.
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"Hot standards" for the thermoacidophilic arch... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

"Hot standards" for the thermoacidophilic arch... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Within the archaea, the thermoacidophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus solfataricus has become an important model organism for physiology and biochemistry, comparative and functional genomics, as well as, more recently also for systems biology approaches. Within the Sulfolobus Systems Biology ("SulfoSYS")-project the effect of changing growth temperatures on a metabolic network is investigated at the systems level by integrating genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic and enzymatic information for production of a silicon cell-model. The network under investigation is the central carbohydrate metabolism. The generation of high-quality quantitative data, which is critical for the investigation of biological systems and the successful integration of the different datasets, derived for example from high-throughput approaches (e.g., transcriptome or proteome analyses), requires the application and compliance of uniform standard protocols, e.g., for growth and handling of the organism as well as the "-omics" approaches. Here, we report on the establishment and implementation of standard operating procedures for the different wet-lab and in silico techniques that are applied within the SulfoSYS-project and that we believe can be useful for future projects on Sulfolobus or (hyper)thermophiles in general. Beside established techniques, it includes new methodologies like strain surveillance, the improved identification of membrane proteins and the application of crenarchaeal metabolomics.
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SulfoSYS (Sulfolobus Systems Biology): tow... [Biochem Soc Trans. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

SulfoSYS (Sulfolobus Systems Biology) focuses on the study of the CCM (central carbohydrate metabolism) of Sulfolobus solfataricus and its regulation under temperature variation at the systems level. In Archaea, carbohydrates are metabolized by modifications of the classical pathways known from Bacteria or Eukarya, e.g. the unusual branched ED (Entner-Doudoroff) pathway, which is utilized for glucose degradation in S. solfataricus. This archaeal model organism of choice is a thermoacidophilic crenarchaeon that optimally grows at 80 degrees C (60-92 degrees C) and pH 2-4. In general, life at high temperature requires very efficient adaptation to temperature changes, which is most difficult to deal with for organisms, and it is unclear how biological networks can withstand and respond to such changes. This integrative project combines genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic, as well as kinetic and biochemical information. The final goal of SulfoSYS is the construction of a silicon cell model for this part of the living cell that will enable computation of the CCM network. In the present paper, we report on one of the first archaeal systems biology projects.
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Cell surface structures of archaea. [J Bacteriol. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI

Cell surface structures of archaea. [J Bacteriol. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
PubMed comprises more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
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The complete genome sequence of Thermoproteus tenax... [PLoS One. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

The complete genome sequence of Thermoproteus tenax... [PLoS One. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Here, we report on the complete genome sequence of the hyperthermophilic Crenarchaeum Thermoproteus tenax (strain Kra1, DSM 2078(T)) a type strain of the crenarchaeotal order Thermoproteales. Its circular 1.84-megabase genome harbors no extrachromosomal elements and 2,051 open reading frames are identified, covering 90.6% of the complete sequence, which represents a high coding density. Derived from the gene content, T. tenax is a representative member of the Crenarchaeota. The organism is strictly anaerobic and sulfur-dependent with optimal growth at 86°C and pH 5.6. One particular feature is the great metabolic versatility, which is not accompanied by a distinct increase of genome size or information density as compared to other Crenarchaeota. T. tenax is able to grow chemolithoautotrophically (CO₂/H₂) as well as chemoorganoheterotrophically in presence of various organic substrates. All pathways for synthesizing the 20 proteinogenic amino acids are present. In addition, two presumably complete gene sets for NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) were identified in the genome and there is evidence that either NADH or reduced ferredoxin might serve as electron donor. Beside the typical archaeal A₀A₁-ATP synthase, a membrane-bound pyrophosphatase is found, which might contribute to energy conservation. Surprisingly, all genes required for dissimilatory sulfate reduction are present, which is confirmed by growth experiments. Mentionable is furthermore, the presence of two proteins (ParA family ATPase, actin-like protein) that might be involved in cell division in Thermoproteales, where the ESCRT system is absent, and of genes involved in genetic competence (DprA, ComF) that is so far unique within Archaea.
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Functional curation of the Sulfolobus solfatar... [Extremophiles. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

The thermoacidophiles Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 and S. acidocaldarius 98-3 are considered key model organisms representing a major phylum of the Crenarchaeota. Because maintaining current, accurate genome information is indispensable for modern biology, we have updated gene function annotation using the arCOGs database, plus other available functional, structural and phylogenetic information. The goal of this initiative is continuous improvement of genome annotation with the support of the Sulfolobus research community.
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The thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolob... [Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

Polyprenoids, polymers containing varied numbers of isoprene subunits, serve numerous roles in biology. In Eukarya, dolichyl phosphate, a phosphorylated polyprenol bearing a saturated α-end isoprene subunit, serves as the glycan carrier during N-glycosylation, namely that post-translational modification whereby glycans are covalently linked to select asparagine residues of a target protein. As in Eukarya, N-glycosylation in Archaea also relies on phosphorylated dolichol. In this report, LC-ESI/MS/MS was employed to identify a novel dolichyl phosphate (DolP) in the thermoacidophilic archaeon, Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. The unusually short S. acidocaldarius DolP presents a degree of saturation not previously reported. S. acidocaldarius DolP contains not only the saturated α- and ω-end isoprene subunits observed in other archaeal DolPs, but also up to five saturated intra-chain isoprene subunits. The corresponding dolichol and hexose-charged DolP species were also detected. The results of the present study offer valuable information on the biogenesis and potential properties of this unique DolP. Furthermore, elucidation of the mechanism of α-isoprene unit reduction in S. acidocaldarius dolichol may facilitate the identification of the alternative, as yet unknown polyprenol reductase in Eukarya.
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The bindosome is a structural component of the... [Extremophiles. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

The bindosome is a structural component of the... [Extremophiles. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
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.
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Comparative study of the extracellular proteom... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Comparative study of the extracellular proteom... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Although a large number of potentially secreted proteins can be predicted on the basis of genomic distribution of signal sequence-bearing proteins, protein secretion in Archaea has barely been studied. A proteomic inventory and comparison of the growth medium proteins in three hyperthermoacidophiles, i.e., Sulfolobus solfataricus, S. acidocaldarius and S. tokodaii, indicates that only few proteins are freely secreted into the growth medium and that the majority originates from cell envelope bound forms. In S. acidocaldarius both cell-associated and secreted alpha-amylase activities are detected. Inactivation of the amyA gene resulted in a complete loss of activity, suggesting that the same protein is responsible for the a-amylase activity at both locations. It is concluded that protein secretion in Sulfolobus is a limited process, and it is suggested that the S-layer may act as a barrier for the free diffusion of folded proteins into the medium.
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Diversity of archaeal type IV pilin-like struc... [Extremophiles. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

Bacterial type IV pili perform important functions in such disparate biological processes as surface adhesion, cell-cell interactions, autoaggregation, conjugation, and twitching motility. Unlike bacteria, archaea use a type IV pilus related structure to drive swimming motility. While this unique flagellum is the best-studied example of an archaeal IV pilus-like structure, recent in silico, in vivo and structural analyses have revealed a highly diverse set of archaeal non-flagellar type IV pilus-like structures. Accumulating evidence suggests that these structures play important diverse roles in archaea.
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Appendage-mediated surface adherence of Sulfolob... [J Bacteriol. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Appendage-mediated surface adherence of Sulfolob... [J Bacteriol. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Attachment of microorganisms to surfaces is a prerequisite for colonization and biofilm formation. The hyperthermophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus solfataricus was able to attach to a variety of surfaces, such as glass, mica, pyrite, and carbon-coated gold grids. Deletion mutant analysis showed that for initial attachment the presence of flagella and pili is essential. Attached cells produced extracellular polysaccharides containing mannose, galactose, and N-acetylglucosamine. Genes possibly involved in the production of the extracellular polysaccharides were identified.
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Ss-LrpB, a transcriptional regulator from Sulf... [Mol Microbiol. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

Ss-LrpB is an Lrp-like transcriptional regulator from Sulfolobus solfataricus. Previously, in vitro binding of Ss-LrpB to the control region of its own gene has been extensively studied. However, nothing was known about the physiological role of this regulator yet. Here, using the knowledge of the DNA-binding sequence specificity of Ss-LrpB, several potential binding sites were predicted in silico in promoter regions of genes located adjacently to the Ss-lrpB gene. These genes include an operon encoding a pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase (porDAB) and two genes encoding putative permeases. In vitro protein-DNA interaction studies allowed the identification of the Ss-LrpB binding sites in the cognate control regions. Intriguingly, the binding site organization in the por operator is identical to that in the Ss-lrpB control region. An Ss-lrpB gene disruption mutant was constructed and the gene expression of the above-mentioned targets in this mutant was analysed by qRT-PCR and compared with isogenic wild type. Our data demonstrate that in vivo Ss-LrpB acts as an activator at the promoters of the three predicted targets. Based on these results, it appears that not all regulators belonging to the archaeal Lrp family perform a function related to the amino acid metabolism, unlike the bacterial Lrp-like regulators.
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Inducible and constitutive promoters for genet... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Inducible and constitutive promoters for genet... [Extremophiles. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
Central to genetic work in any organism are the availability of a range of inducible and constitutive promoters. In this work we studied several promoters for use in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. The promoters were tested with the aid of an E. coli-Sulfolobus shuttle vector in reporter gene experiments. As the most suitable inducible promoter a maltose inducible promoter was identified. It comprises 266 bp of the sequence upstream of the gene coding for the maltose/maltotriose binding protein (mbp, Saci_1165). Induction is feasible with either maltose or dextrin at concentrations of 0.2-0.4%. The highest increase in expression (up to 17-fold) was observed in late exponential and stationary phase around 30-50 h after addition of dextrin. Whereas in the presence of glucose and xylose higher basal activity and reduced inducibility with maltose is observed, sucrose can be used in the growth medium additionally without affecting the basal activity or the inducibility. The minimal promoter region necessary could be narrowed down to 169 bp of the upstream sequence. The ABCE1 protein from S. solfataricus was successfully expressed under control of the inducible promoter with the shuttle vector pC and purified from the S. acidocaldarius culture with a yield of about 1 mg L(-1) culture. In addition we also determined the promoter strength of several constitutive promoters.
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Crenarchaeal biofilm formation under extreme condit... [PLoS One. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Crenarchaeal biofilm formation under extreme condit... [PLoS One. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI | Publications-Albers lab | Scoop.it
BACKGROUND:

Biofilm formation has been studied in much detail for a variety of bacterial species, as it plays a major role in the pathogenicity of bacteria. However, only limited information is available for the development of archaeal communities that are frequently found in many natural environments.

METHODOLOGY:

We have analyzed biofilm formation in three closely related hyperthermophilic crenarchaeotes: Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, S. solfataricus and S. tokodaii. We established a microtitre plate assay adapted to high temperatures to determine how pH and temperature influence biofilm formation in these organisms. Biofilm analysis by confocal laser scanning microscopy demonstrated that the three strains form very different communities ranging from simple carpet-like structures in S. solfataricus to high density tower-like structures in S. acidocaldarius in static systems. Lectin staining indicated that all three strains produced extracellular polysaccharides containing glucose, galactose, mannose and N-acetylglucosamine once biofilm formation was initiated. While flagella mutants had no phenotype in two days old static biofilms of S. solfataricus, a UV-induced pili deletion mutant showed decreased attachment of cells.

CONCLUSION:

The study gives first insights into formation and development of crenarchaeal biofilms in extreme environments.
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Expanding and understanding the genetic to... [Biochem Soc Trans. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

Although Sulfolobus species are among the best studied archaeal micro-organisms, the development and availability of genetic tools has lagged behind. In the present paper, we discuss the latest progress in understanding recombination events of exogenous DNA into the chromosomes of Sulfolobus solfataricus and Sulfolobus acidocaldarius and their application in the construction of targeted-deletion mutant strains.
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UV-inducible cellular aggregation of the hyper... [Mol Microbiol. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI

The hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has been shown to exhibit a complex transcriptional response to UV irradiation involving 55 genes. Among the strongest UV-induced genes was a putative pili biogenesis operon encoding a potential secretion ATPase, two pre-pilins, a putative transmembrane protein and a protein of unknown function. Electron microscopy and image reconstruction of UV-treated cells showed straight pili with 10 nm in diameter, variable in length, not bundled or polarized and composed of three evenly spaced helices, thereby clearly being distinguishable from archaeal flagella. A deletion mutant of SSO0120, the central type II/IV secretion ATPase, did not produce pili. It could be complemented by reintroducing the gene on a plasmid vector. We have named the operon ups operon for UV-inducible pili operon of Sulfolobus. Overexpression of the pre-pilins, Ups-A/B (SSO0117/0118) in Sulfolobus resulted in production of extremely long filaments. Pronounced cellular aggregation was observed and quantified upon UV treatment. This aggregation was a UV-dose-dependent, dynamic process, not inducible by other physical stressors (such as pH or temperature shift) but stimulated by chemically induced double-strand breaks in DNA. We hypothesize that pili formation and subsequent cellular aggregation enhance DNA transfer among Sulfolobus cells to provide increased repair of damaged DNA via homologous recombination.
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