Life2015, 5(1), 372-384; doi:10.3390/life5010372 (registering DOI) - published 30 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Reactions of formamide (NH2COH) in the presence of catalysts of both terrestrial and meteoritic origin yield, in plausible and variegated conditions, a large panel of precursors of (pre)genetic and (pre)metabolic interest. Formamide chemistry potentially satisfies all of the steps from the very initial precursors to RNA. Water chemistry enters the scene in RNA non-enzymatic synthesis and recombination.
Life2015, 5(1), 348-371; doi:10.3390/life5010348 - published 28 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In this chapter, we mainly focus on the acclimation of cyanobacteria to the changing ambient CO2 and discuss mechanisms of inorganic carbon (Ci) uptake, photorespiration, and the regulation among the metabolic fluxes involved in photoautotrophic, photomixotrophic and heterotrophic growth. The structural components for several of the transport and uptake mechanisms are described and the progress towards elucidating their regulation is discussed in the context of studies, which have documented metabolomic changes in response to changes in Ci availability. Genes for several of the transport and uptake mechanisms are regulated by transcriptional regulators that are in the LysR-transcriptional regulator family and are known to act in concert with small molecule effectors, which appear to be well-known metabolites. Signals that trigger changes in gene expression and enzyme activity correspond to specific “regulatory metabolites” whose concentrations depend on the ambient Ci availability. Finally, emerging evidence for an additional layer of regulatory complexity involving small non-coding RNAs is discussed.
Life2015, 5(1), 332-347; doi:10.3390/life5010332 - published 27 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Although alkaline Hunter’s Hot Springs in southeastern Oregon has been studied extensively for over 40 years, most of these studies and the subsequent publications were before the advent of molecular methods. However, there are many field observations and laboratory experiments that reveal the major aspects of the phototrophic species composition within various physical and chemical gradients of these springs. Relatively constant temperature boundaries demark the upper boundary of the unicellular cyanobacterium, Synechococcus at 73–74 °C (the world-wide upper limit for photosynthesis), and 68–70 °C the upper limit for Chloroflexus. The upper limit for the cover of the filamentous cyanobacterium, Geitlerinema (Oscillatoria) is at 54–55 °C, and the in situ lower limit at 47–48 °C for all three of these phototrophs due to the upper temperature limit for the grazing ostracod, Thermopsis. The in situ upper limit for the cyanobacteria Pleurocapsa and Calothrix is at ~47–48 °C, which are more grazer-resistant and grazer dependent. All of these demarcations are easily visible in the field. In addition, there is a biosulfide production in some sections of the springs that have a large impact on the microbiology. Most of the temperature and chemical limits have been explained by field and laboratory experiments.
Life2015, 5(1), 321-331; doi:10.3390/life5010321 - published 26 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs with lengths of approximately 70–100 nt. They are directly involved in protein synthesis by carrying amino acids to the ribosome. In this sense, tRNAs are key molecules that connect the RNA world and the protein world. Thus, study of the evolution of tRNA molecules may reveal the processes that led to the establishment of the central dogma: genetic information flows from DNA to RNA to protein. Thanks to the development of DNA sequencers in this century, we have determined a huge number of nucleotide sequences from complete genomes as well as from transcriptomes in many species. Recent analyses of these large data sets have shown that particular tRNA genes, especially in Archaea, are disrupted in unique ways: some tRNA genes contain multiple introns and some are split genes. Even tRNA molecules themselves are fragmented post-transcriptionally in many species. These fragmented small RNAs are known as tRNA-derived fragments (tRFs). In this review, I summarize the progress of research into the disrupted tRNA genes and the tRFs, and propose a possible model for the molecular evolution of tRNAs based on the concept of the combination of fragmented tRNA halves.
Life2015, 5(1), 294-320; doi:10.3390/life5010294 - published 23 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We review arguments that biology emerged from a reciprocal partnership in which small ancestral oligopeptides and oligonucleotides initially both contributed rudimentary information coding and catalytic rate accelerations, and that the superior information-bearing qualities of RNA and the superior catalytic potential of proteins emerged from such complexes only with the gradual invention of the genetic code. A coherent structural basis for that scenario was articulated nearly a decade before the demonstration of catalytic RNA. Parallel hierarchical catalytic repertoires for increasingly highly conserved sequences from the two synthetase classes now increase the likelihood that they arose as translation products from opposite strands of a single gene. Sense/antisense coding affords a new bioinformatic metric for phylogenetic relationships much more distant than can be reconstructed from multiple sequence alignments of a single superfamily. Evidence for distinct coding properties in tRNA acceptor stems and anticodons, and experimental demonstration that the two synthetase family ATP binding sites can indeed be coded by opposite strands of the same gene supplement these biochemical and bioinformatic data, establishing a solid basis for key intermediates on a path from simple, stereochemically coded, reciprocally catalytic peptide/RNA complexes through the earliest peptide catalysts to contemporary aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. That scenario documents a path to increasing complexity that obviates the need for a single polymer to act both catalytically and as an informational molecule.
Life2015, 5(1), 269-293; doi:10.3390/life5010269 - published 21 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Terpenoids, or isoprenoids, are a family of compounds with great structural diversity which are essential for all living organisms. In cyanobacteria, they are synthesized from the methylerythritol-phosphate (MEP) pathway, using glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate and pyruvate produced by photosynthesis as substrates. The products of the MEP pathway are the isomeric five-carbon compounds isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate, which in turn form the basic building blocks for formation of all terpenoids. Many terpenoid compounds have useful properties and are of interest in the fields of pharmaceuticals and nutrition, and even potentially as future biofuels. The MEP pathway, its function and regulation, and the subsequent formation of terpenoids have not been fully elucidated in cyanobacteria, despite its relevance for biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the present knowledge about cyanobacterial terpenoid biosynthesis, both regarding the native metabolism and regarding metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria for heterologous production of non-native terpenoids.