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  1. Abstract

    Many archaea encode and express histone proteins to compact their genomes. Archaeal and eukaryotic histones share a near-identical fold that permits DNA wrapping through select histone-DNA contacts to generate chromatin-structures that must be traversed by RNA polymerase (RNAP) to generate transcripts. As archaeal histones can spontaneously assemble with a single histone isoform, single-histone chromatin variants provide an idealized platform to detail the impacts of distinct histone-DNA contacts on transcription efficiencies and to detail the role of the conserved cleavage stimulatory factor, Transcription Factor S (TFS), in assisting RNAP through chromatin landscapes. We demonstrate that substitution of histone residues that modify histone-DNA contacts or the three-dimensional chromatin structure result in radically altered transcription elongation rates and pausing patterns. Chromatin-barriers slow and pause RNAP, providing regulatory potential. The modest impacts of TFS on elongation rates through chromatin landscapes is correlated with TFS-dispensability from the archaeonThermococcus kodakarensis. Our results detail the importance of distinct chromatin structures for archaeal gene expression and provide a unique perspective on the evolution of, and regulatory strategies imposed by, eukaryotic chromatin.

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  2. Abstract

    The sole unifying feature of the incredibly diverse Archaea is their isoprenoid‐based ether‐linked lipid membranes. Unique lipid membrane composition, including an abundance of membrane‐spanning tetraether lipids, impart resistance to extreme conditions. Many questions remain, however, regarding the synthesis and modification of tetraether lipids and how dynamic changes to archaeal lipid membrane composition support hyperthermophily. Tetraether membranes, termed glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), are generated by tetraether synthase (Tes) by joining the tails of two bilayer lipids known as archaeol. GDGTs are often further specialized through the addition of cyclopentane rings by GDGT ring synthase (Grs). A positive correlation between relative GDGT abundance and entry into stationary phase growth has been observed, but the physiological impact of inhibiting GDGT synthesis has not previously been reported. Here, we demonstrate that the model hyperthermophileThermococcus kodakarensisremains viable when Tes (TK2145) or Grs (TK0167) are deleted, permitting phenotypic and lipid analyses at different temperatures. The absence of cyclopentane rings in GDGTs does not impact growth inT. kodakarensis, but an overabundance of rings due to ectopic Grs expression is highly fitness negative at supra‐optimal temperatures. In contrast, deletion of Tes resulted in the loss of all GDGTs, cyclization of archaeol, and loss of viability upon transition to the stationary phase in this model archaea. These results demonstrate the critical roles of highly specialized, dynamic, isoprenoid‐based lipid membranes for archaeal survival at high temperatures.

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  3. Thermococcus kodakarensis ( T. kodakarensis ), a hyperthermophilic, genetically accessible model archaeon, encodes two putative restriction modification (R-M) defense systems, TkoI and TkoII. TkoI is encoded by TK1460 while TkoII is encoded by TK1158. Bioinformative analysis suggests both R-M enzymes are large, fused methyltransferase (MTase)-endonuclease polypeptides that contain both restriction endonuclease (REase) activity to degrade foreign invading DNA and MTase activity to methylate host genomic DNA at specific recognition sites. In this work, we demonsrate T. kodakarensis strains deleted for either or both R-M enzymes grow more slowly but display significantly increased competency compared to strains with intact R-M systems, suggesting that both TkoI and TkoII assist in maintenance of genomic integrity in vivo and likely protect against viral- or plasmid-based DNA transfers. Pacific Biosciences single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing of T. kodakarensis strains containing both, one or neither R-M systems permitted assignment of the recognition sites for TkoI and TkoII and demonstrated that both R-M enzymes are TypeIIL; TkoI and TkoII methylate the N 6 position of adenine on one strand of the recognition sequences GTGA A G and TTCA A G, respectively. Further in vitro biochemical characterization of the REase activities reveal TkoI and TkoII cleave the DNA backbone GTGAAG(N) 20 /(N) 18 and TTCAAG(N) 10 /(N) 8 , respectively, away from the recognition sequences, while in vitro characterization of the MTase activities reveal transfer of tritiated S-adenosyl methionine by TkoI and TkoII to their respective recognition sites. Together these results demonstrate TkoI and TkoII restriction systems are important for protecting T. kodakarensis genome integrity from invading foreign DNA. 
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