Two pioneers of twentieth century biology passed away during the past decade, Wolfram Zillig in April 2005 and Carl Woese in December 2012. Among several other accomplishments, Woese has been celebrated for the discovery of the domain Archaea and for establishing rRNA as the 'Rosetta Stone' of evolutionary and environmental microbiology. His work inspired many scientists in various fields of biology, and among them was Wolfram Zillig, who is credited with the discovery of several unique molecular features of archaea. In this Essay, we highlight the remarkable achievements of Woese and Zillig and consider how they have shaped the archaeal research landscape.
Cell surface proteins of hyperthermophilic Archaea actively participate in intercellular communication, cellular uptake, and energy conversion to sustain survival strategies in extreme habitats. Surface (S)-layer glycoproteins, the major component of the S-layers in many archaeal species and the best-characterized prokaryotic glycoproteins, were shown to have a large structural diversity in their glycan compositions. In spite of this, knowledge on glycosylation of proteins other than S-layer proteins in Archaea is quite limited. Here, the N-glycosylation pattern of cell-surface-exposed proteins of Sulfolobus solfataricus P2 were analyzed by lectin affinity purification, HPAEC-PAD, and multiple mass spectrometry-based techniques. Detailed analysis of SSO1273, one of the most abundant ABC transporters present in the cell surface fraction of S. solfataricus, revealed a novel glycan structure composed of a branched sulfated heptasaccharide, Hex4(GlcNAc)2 plus sulfoquinovose where Hex is d-mannose and d-glucose. Having one monosaccharide unit more than the glycan of the S-layer glycoprotein of S. acidocaldarius, this is the most complex archaeal glycan structure known today. SSO1273 protein is heavily glycosylated and all 20 theoretical N-X-S/T (where X is any amino acid except proline) consensus sequence sites were confirmed. Remarkably, we show that several other proteins in the surface fraction of S. solfataricus are N-glycosylated by the same sulfated oligosaccharide and we identified 56 N-glycosylation sites in this subproteome.
Although N-glycosylation was first reported in archaea almost 40 years ago, detailed insights into this process have become possible only recently, with the availability of complete genome sequences for almost 200 archaeal species and the development of appropriate molecular tools. As a result of these advances, recent efforts have not only succeeded in delineating the pathways involved in archaeal N-glycosylation, but also begun to reveal how such post-translational protein modification helps archaea to survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet.
Scientific American (blog) Archaea Are More Wonderful Than You Know Scientific American (blog) The organisms he revealed — the archaea — are fascinating and abundant creatures, yet are hardly ever discussed in depth, even within the confines of...
Astrobiology Magazine (press release) In Memoriam: Carl Woese Astrobiology Magazine (press release) Microbes known as archaea are as distinct from bacteria as plants and animals are, they wrote in a published paper.
Geothermal systems in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) provide an outstanding opportunity to understand the origin and evolution of metabolic processes necessary for life in extreme environments including low pH, high temperature, low oxygen and elevated concentrations of reduced iron. Previous phylogenetic studies of acidic ferric iron mats from YNP have revealed considerable diversity of uncultivated and undescribed archaea. The goal of this study was to obtain replicate de novo genome assemblies for a dominant archaeal population inhabiting acidic iron-oxide mats in YNP. Detailed analysis of conserved ribosomal and informational processing genes indicates that the replicate assemblies represent a new candidate phylum within the domain Archaea referred to here as 'Geoarchaeota' or 'novel archaeal group 1 (NAG1)'. The NAG1 organisms contain pathways necessary for the catabolism of peptides and complex carbohydrates as well as a bacterial-like Form I carbon monoxide dehydrogenase complex likely used for energy conservation. Moreover, this novel population contains genes involved in the metabolism of oxygen including a Type A heme copper oxidase, a bd-type terminal oxidase and a putative oxygen-sensing protoglobin. NAG1 has a variety of unique bacterial-like cofactor biosynthesis and transport genes and a Type3-like CRISPR system. Discovery of NAG1 is critical to our understanding of microbial community structure and function in extant thermophilic iron-oxide mats of YNP, and will provide insight regarding the evolution of Archaea in early Earth environments that may have important analogs active in YNP today
Genetic manipulation is possible in many members of the halophiles, methanogens, Sulfolobus, and Thermococcales. We describe the selection/counterselection principles utilized in each of these groups, which consist of antibiotics and their resistance markers, and auxotrophic host strains and complementary markers. The latter strategy utilizes techniques similar to those developed in yeast. However, Archaea are resistant to many of the antibiotics routinely used for selection in the Bacteria, and a number of strategies specific to the Archaea have been developed. In addition, examples utilizing the genetic systems developed for each group will be briefly described.
Fungi discovered to be source of methanePhys.OrgVarious molecular, biological and analytical methods, in collaborative work with the University of Giessen and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Magdeburg, showed that no methanogenic...
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.
Biofilms are currently viewed as the most common form in which microorganisms exist in nature. Bacterial biofilms play important roles in disease and industrial applications, and they have been studied in great detail. Although it is well accepted that archaea are not only the extremists they were thought to be as they occupy nearly every habitat where also bacteria are found, it is surprising how little molecular details are known about archaeal biofilm formation. Therefore, we aim to highlight the available information and indicate open questions in this field.
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.
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 ...
Type II topoisomerases help regulate DNA topology during transcription, replication and recombination by catalysing DNA strand transfer through transient double-stranded breaks. All type II topoisomerases described so far are members of a single protein family. We have cloned and sequenced the genes encoding the A and B subunits of topoisomerase II from the archaeon Sulfolobus shibatae. This enzyme is the first of a new family. It has no similarity with other type II topoisomerases, except for three motifs in the B subunit probably involved in ATP binding and hydrolysis. We also found these motifs in proteins of the Hsp90 and MutL families. The A subunit has similarities with four proteins of unknown function. One of them, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Spo11 protein, is required for the initiation of meiotic recombination. Mutagenesis, performed on SPO11, of the single tyrosine conserved between the five homologues shows that this amino acid is essential for Spo11 activity. By analogy with the mechanism of action of known type II topoisomerases, we suggest that Spo11 catalyses the formation of double-strand breaks that initiate meiotic recombination in S. cerevisiae.
Sonja-Verena Albers's insight:
Without archaea there would be no meiosis and therefore no sex in nature
New York Times Evolution Scientist Carl Woese Dies: 'The Most Important Evolution Scientist ... Huffington Post (blog) After all, it was Carl Woese who first identified the Archaea and introduced us to horizontal gene transfer.
Chicago Tribune Carl R. Woese, microbiologist and professor at U. of I., 1928-2012 Chicago Tribune The scientists reported that the microbes now known as archaea were as distinct from bacteria as plants and animals.
Collections of Clusters of Orthologous Genes (COGs) provide indispensable tools for comparative genomic analysis, evolutionary reconstruction and functional annotation of new genomes. Initially, COGs were made for all ...
There are no known RNA viruses that infect Archaea. Filling this gap in our knowledge of viruses will enhance our understanding of the relationships between RNA viruses from the three domains of cellular life and, in particular, could shed light on the origin of the enormous diversity of RNA viruses infecting eukaryotes. We describe here the identification of novel RNA viral genome segments from high-temperature acidic hot springs in Yellowstone National Park in the United States. These hot springs harbor low-complexity cellular communities dominated by several species of hyperthermophilic Archaea. A viral metagenomics approach was taken to assemble segments of these RNA virus genomes from viral populations isolated directly from hot spring samples. Analysis of these RNA metagenomes demonstrated unique gene content that is not generally related to known RNA viruses of Bacteria and Eukarya. However, genes for RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), a hallmark of positive-strand RNA viruses, were identified in two contigs. One of these contigs is approximately 5,600 nucleotides in length and encodes a polyprotein that also contains a region homologous to the capsid protein of nodaviruses, tetraviruses, and birnaviruses. Phylogenetic analyses of the RdRps encoded in these contigs indicate that the putative archaeal viruses form a unique group that is distinct from the RdRps of RNA viruses of Eukarya and Bacteria. Collectively, our findings suggest the existence of novel positive-strand RNA viruses that probably replicate in hyperthermophilic archaeal hosts and are highly divergent from RNA viruses that infect eukaryotes and even more distant from known bacterial RNA viruses. These positive-strand RNA viruses might be direct ancestors of RNA viruses of eukaryotes.
Life in extreme environments – hot acids and heavy metals, for example – can apparently make very similar organisms deal with stress in very different ways, according to new research from North Carolina State University.
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.
The Crenarchaeon Ignicoccus hospitalis is an anaerobic, obligate chemolithoautotrophic hyperthermophile, growing by reduction of elemental sulfur using molecular hydrogen as electron donor. Together with Nanoarchaeum equitans it forms a unique, archaeal biocoenosis, in which I. hospitalis serves as host for N. equitans. Both organisms can be cultivated in a stable coculture which is mandatory for N. equitans but not for I. hospitalis. This strong dependence is affirmed by the fact that N. equitans obtains its lipids and amino acids from the host. I. hospitalis cells exhibit several unique features: they can adhere to surfaces by extracellular appendages ('fibers') which are not used for motility; they use a novel CO(2) fixation pathway, the dicarboxylate/4-hydroxybutyrate pathway; and they exhibit a unique cell envelope for Archaea consisting of two membranes but lacking an S-layer. These membranes form two cell compartments, a tightly packed cytoplasm surrounded by a weakly staining intermembrane compartment (IMC) with a variable width from 20 to 1,000 nm. In this IMC, many round or elongated vesicles are found which may function as carriers of lipids or proteins out of the cytoplasm. Based on immuno-EM analyses and immuno-fluorescence experiments it was demonstrated recently that the A(1)A(O) ATP synthase, the H(2):sulfur oxidoreductase complex and the acetyl-CoA synthetase (ACS) of I. hospitalis are located in its outermost membrane. Therefore, this membrane is energized and is here renamed as "outer cellular membrane" (OCM). Among all prokaryotes possessing two membranes in their cell envelope, I. hospitalis is the first organism with an energized outermost membrane and ATP synthesis outside the cytoplasm. Since DNA and ribosomes are localized in the cytoplasm, energy conservation is separated from information processing and protein biosynthesis in I. hospitalis. This raises questions concerning the function and characterization of the two membranes, the two cell compartments and of a possible ATP transfer to N. equitans.
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