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  1. Abstract

    Research focused on microbial populations of thermoalkaline springs has been driven in a large part by the lure of discovering functional enzymes with industrial applications in high-pH and high temperature environments. While several studies have focused on understanding the fundamental ecology of these springs, the small molecule profiles of thermoalkaline springs have largely been overlooked. To better understand how geochemistry, small molecule composition, and microbial communities are connected, we conducted a three-year study of the Five Sisters (FS) springs that included high-resolution geochemical measurements, 16S rRNA sequencing of the bacterial and archaeal community, and mass spectrometry-based metabolite and extracellular small molecule characterization. Integration of the four datasets facilitated a comprehensive analysis of the interwoven thermoalkaline spring system. Over the course of the study, the microbial population responded to changing environmental conditions, with archaeal populations decreasing in both relative abundance and diversity compared to bacterial populations. Decreases in the relative abundance of Archaea were associated with environmental changes that included decreased availability of specific nitrogen- and sulfur-containing extracellular small molecules and fluctuations in metabolic pathways associated with nitrogen cycling. This multi-factorial analysis demonstrates that the microbial community composition is more closely correlated with pools of extracellular small molecules than withmore »the geochemistry of the thermal springs. This is a novel finding and suggests that a previously overlooked component of thermal springs may have a significant impact on microbial community composition.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Several bacteria possess components of catabolic pathways for the synthetic polyester poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). These proceed by hydrolyzing the ester linkages of the polymer to its monomers, ethylene glycol and terephthalate (TPA), which are further converted into common metabolites. These pathways are crucial for genetically engineering microbes for PET upcycling, prompting interest in their fundamental biochemical and structural elucidation. Terephthalate dioxygenase (TPADO) and its cognate reductase make up a complex multimetalloenzyme system that dihydroxylates TPA, activating it for enzymatic decarboxylation to yield protocatechuic acid (PCA). Here, we report structural, biochemical, and bioinformatic analyses of TPADO. Together, these data illustrate the remarkable adaptation of TPADO to the TPA dianion as its preferred substrate, with small, protonatable ring 2-carbon substituents being among the few permitted substrate modifications. TPADO is a Rieske [2Fe2S] and mononuclear nonheme iron-dependent oxygenase (Rieske oxygenase) that shares low sequence similarity with most structurally characterized members of its family. Structural data show an α-helix–associated histidine side chain that rotates into an Fe (II)–coordinating position following binding of the substrate into an adjacent pocket. TPA interactions with side chains in this pocket were not conserved in homologs with different substrate preferences. The binding mode of the less symmetric 2-hydroxy-TPA substrate,more »the observation that PCA is its oxygenation product, and the close relationship of the TPADO α-subunit to that of anthranilate dioxygenase allowed us to propose a structure-based model for product formation. Future efforts to identify, evolve, or engineer TPADO variants with desirable properties will be enabled by the results described here.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 29, 2023
  4. Reports of biogenic methane (CH 4 ) synthesis associated with a range of organisms have steadily accumulated in the literature. This has not happened without controversy and in most cases the process is poorly understood at the gene and enzyme levels. In marine and freshwater environments, CH 4 supersaturation of oxic surface waters has been termed the “methane paradox” because biological CH 4 synthesis is viewed to be a strictly anaerobic process carried out by O 2 -sensitive methanogens. Interest in this phenomenon has surged within the past decade because of the importance of understanding sources and sinks of this potent greenhouse gas. In our work on Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, we demonstrate microbiological conversion of methylamine to CH 4 and isolate and characterize an Acidovorax sp. capable of this activity. Furthermore, we identify and clone a gene critical to this process (encodes pyridoxylamine phosphate-dependent aspartate aminotransferase) and demonstrate that this property can be transferred to Escherichia coli with this gene and will occur as a purified enzyme. This previously unrecognized process sheds light on environmental cycling of CH 4 , suggesting that O 2 -insensitive, ecologically relevant aerobic CH 4 synthesis is likely of widespread distribution inmore »the environment and should be considered in CH 4 modeling efforts.« less
  5. The microbial ars operon encodes the primary bacterial defense response to the environmental toxicant, arsenic. An important component of this operon is the arsR gene, which encodes ArsR, a member of the family of proteins categorized as DNA-binding transcriptional repressors. As currently documented, ArsR regulates its own expression as well as other genes in the same ars operon. This study examined the roles of four ArsR proteins in the well-developed model Gram-negative bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens 5A. RNASeq was used to compare and characterize gene expression profiles in ± arsenite-treated cells of the wild-type strain and in four different arsR mutants. We report that ArsR-controlled transcription regulation is truly global, extending well beyond the current ars operon model, and includes both repression as well as apparent activation effects. Many cellular functions are significantly influenced, including arsenic resistance, phosphate acquisition/metabolism, sugar transport, chemotaxis, copper tolerance, iron homeostasis, and many others. While there is evidence of some regulatory overlap, each ArsR exhibits its own regulatory profile. Furthermore, evidence of a regulatory hierarchy was observed; i.e. ArsR1 represses arsR4 , ArsR4 activates arsR2 , and ArsR2 represses arsR3 . Additionally and unexpectedly, aioB (arsenite oxidase small subunit) expression was shown to be under partialmore »positive control by ArsR2 and ArsR4. Summarizing, this study demonstrates the regulatory portfolio of arsenite-activated ArsR proteins and includes essentially all major cellular functions. The broad bandwidth of arsenic effects on microbial metabolism assists in explaining and understanding the full impact of arsenic in natural ecosystems, including the mammalian gut.« less
  6. Atomi, Haruyuki (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Agrobacterium tumefaciens GW4 is a heterotrophic arsenite-oxidizing bacterium with a high resistance to arsenic toxicity. It is now a model organism for studying the processes of arsenic detoxification and utilization. Previously, we demonstrated that under low-phosphate conditions, arsenate [As(V)] could enhance bacterial growth and be incorporated into biomolecules, including lipids. While the basic microbial As(V) resistance mechanisms have been characterized, global metabolic responses under low phosphate remain largely unknown. In the present work, the impacts of As(V) and low phosphate on intracellular metabolite and lipid profiles of GW4 were quantified using liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS) in combination with transcriptional assays and the analysis of intracellular ATP and NADH levels. Metabolite profiling revealed that oxidative stress response pathways were altered and suggested an increase in DNA repair. Changes in metabolite levels in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle along with increased ATP are consistent with As(V)-enhanced growth of A. tumefaciens GW4. Lipidomics analysis revealed that most glycerophospholipids decreased in abundance when As(V) was available. However, several glycerolipid classes increased, an outcome that is consistent with maximizing growth via a phosphate-sparing phenotype. Differentially regulated lipids included phosphotidylcholine and lysophospholipids, which have not been previously reported in A. tumefaciens . The metabolites andmore »lipids identified in this study deepen our understanding of the interplay between phosphate and arsenate on chemical and metabolic levels. IMPORTANCE Arsenic is widespread in the environment and is one of the most ubiquitous environmental pollutants. Parodoxically, the growth of certain bacteria is enhanced by arsenic when phosphate is limited. Arsenate and phosphate are chemically similar, and this behavior is believed to represent a phosphate-sparing phenotype in which arsenate is used in place of phosphate in certain biomolecules. The research presented here uses a global approach to track metabolic changes in an environmentally relevant bacterium during exposure to arsenate when phosphate is low. Our findings are relevant for understanding the environmental fate of arsenic as well as how human-associated microbiomes respond to this common toxin.« less
  7. Arsenite (AsIII) oxidation is a microbially-catalyzed transformation that directly impacts arsenic toxicity, bioaccumulation, and bioavailability in environmental systems. The genes for AsIII oxidation (aio) encode a periplasmic AsIII sensor AioX, transmembrane histidine kinase AioS, and cognate regulatory partner AioR, which control expression of the AsIII oxidase AioBA. The aio genes are under ultimate control of the phosphate stress response via histidine kinase PhoR. To better understand the cell-wide impacts exerted by these key histidine kinases, we employed 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) and liquid chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry (LC-MS) metabolomics to characterize the metabolic profiles of ΔphoR and ΔaioS mutants of Agrobacterium tumefaciens 5A during AsIII oxidation. The data reveals a smaller group of metabolites impacted by the ΔaioS mutation, including hypoxanthine and various maltose derivatives, while a larger impact is observed for the ΔphoR mutation, influencing betaine, glutamate, and different sugars. The metabolomics data were integrated with previously published transcriptomics analyses to detail pathways perturbed during AsIII oxidation and those modulated by PhoR and/or AioS. The results highlight considerable disruptions in central carbon metabolism in the ΔphoR mutant. These data provide a detailed map of the metabolic impacts of AsIII, PhoR, and/or AioS, and inform current paradigms concerning arsenic–microbemore »interactions and nutrient cycling in contaminated environments.« less
  8. ABSTRACT We describe the discovery of an archaeal virus, one that infects archaea, tentatively named Thermoproteus spherical piliferous virus 1 (TSPV1), which was purified from a Thermoproteales host isolated from a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park (USA). TSPV1 packages an 18.65-kb linear double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genome with 31 open reading frames (ORFs), whose predicted gene products show little homology to proteins with known functions. A comparison of virus particle morphologies and gene content demonstrates that TSPV1 is a new member of the Globuloviridae family of archaeal viruses. However, unlike other Globuloviridae members, TSPV1 has numerous highly unusual filaments decorating its surface, which can extend hundreds of micrometers from the virion. To our knowledge, similar filaments have not been observed in any other archaeal virus. The filaments are remarkably stable, remaining intact across a broad range of temperature and pH values, and they are resistant to chemical denaturation and proteolysis. A major component of the filaments is a glycosylated 35-kDa TSPV1 protein (TSPV1 GP24). The filament protein lacks detectable homology to structurally or functionally characterized proteins. We propose, given the low host cell densities of hot spring environments, that the TSPV1 filaments serve to increase the probability of virus attachmentmore »and entry into host cells. IMPORTANCE High-temperature environments have proven to be an important source for the discovery of new archaeal viruses with unusual particle morphologies and gene content. Our isolation of Thermoproteus spherical piliferous virus 1 (TSPV1), with numerous filaments extending from the virion surface, expands our understanding of viral diversity and provides new insight into viral replication in high-temperature environments.« less