Life2014, 4(4), 788-799; doi:10.3390/life4040788 (registering DOI) - published 21 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Early-stage evolutionary development of the universal genetic code remains a fundamental, open problem. One of the possible scenarios suggests that the code evolved in response to direct interactions between peptides and RNA oligonucleotides in the primordial environment. Recently, we have revealed a strong matching between base-binding preferences of modern protein sequences and the composition of their cognate mRNA coding sequences. These results point directly at the physicochemical foundation behind the code’s origin, but also support the possibility of direct complementary interactions between proteins and their cognate mRNAs, especially if the two are unstructured. Here, we analyze molecular-surface mapping of knowledge-based amino-acid/nucleobase interaction preferences for a set of complete, high-resolution protein structures and show that the connection between the two biopolymers could remain relevant even for structured, folded proteins. Specifically, protein surface loops are strongly enriched in residues with a high binding propensity for guanine and cytosine, while adenine- and uracil-preferring residues are uniformly distributed throughout protein structures. Moreover, compositional complementarity of cognate protein and mRNA sequences remains strong even after weighting protein sequence profiles by residue solvent exposure. Our results support the possibility that protein/mRNA sequence complementarity may also translate to cognate interactions between structured biopolymers.
Life2014, 4(4), 770-787; doi:10.3390/life4040770 (registering DOI) - published 21 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The cyAbrB2transcriptional regulator is essential for active sugar catabolism in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 grown under light conditions. In the light-grown cyabrB2-disrupted mutant, glycogen granules and sugar phosphates corresponding to early steps in the glycolytic pathway accumulated to higher levels than those in the wild-type (WT) strain, whereas the amounts of 3-phosphoglycerate, phosphoenolpyruvate and ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate were significantly lower. We further determined that accumulated glycogen granules in the mutant could be actively catabolized under dark conditions. Differences in metabolite levels between WT and the mutant became less substantial during dark incubation due to a general quantitative decrease in metabolite levels. Notable exceptions, however, were increases in 2-oxoglutarate, histidine, ornithine and citrulline in the WT but not in the mutant. The amounts of cyAbrBs were highly responsive to the availability of light both in transcript and protein levels. When grown under light-dark cycle conditions, diurnal oscillatory pattern of glycogen content of the mutant was lost after the second dark period. These observations indicate that cyAbrB2is dispensable for activation of sugar catabolism under dark conditions but involved in the proper switching between day and night metabolisms.
Life2014, 4(4), 745-769; doi:10.3390/life4040745 - published 18 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Second messengers are intracellular substances regulated by specific external stimuli globally known as first messengers. Cells rely on second messengers to generate rapid responses to environmental changes and the importance of their roles is becoming increasingly realized in cellular signaling research. Cyanobacteria are photooxygenic bacteria that inhabit most of Earth’s environments. The ability of cyanobacteria to survive in ecologically diverse habitats is due to their capacity to adapt and respond to environmental changes. This article reviews known second messenger-controlled physiological processes in cyanobacteria. Second messengers used in these systems include the element calcium (Ca2+), nucleotide-based guanosine tetraphosphate or pentaphosphate (ppGpp or pppGpp, represented as (p)ppGpp), cyclic adenosine 3’,5’-monophosphate (cAMP), cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP), cyclic guanosine 3’,5’-monophosphate (cGMP), and cyclic dimeric AMP (c-di-AMP), and the gaseous nitric oxide (NO). The discussion focuses on processes central to cyanobacteria, such as nitrogen fixation, light perception, photosynthesis-related processes, and gliding motility. In addition, we address future research trajectories needed to better understand the signaling networks and cross talk in the signaling pathways of these molecules in cyanobacteria. Second messengers have significant potential to be adapted as technological tools and we highlight possible novel and practical applications based on our understanding of these molecules and the signaling networks that they control.
Life2014, 4(4), 716-744; doi:10.3390/life4040716 - published 18 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The diversity of extrasolar planets discovered in the last decade shows that we should not be constrained to look for life in environments similar to early or present-day Earth. Super-Earth exoplanets are being discovered with increasing frequency, and some will be able to retain a stable, hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. We explore the possibilities for photosynthesis on a rocky planet with a thin H2-dominated atmosphere. If a rocky, H2-dominated planet harbors life, then that life is likely to convert atmospheric carbon into methane. Outgassing may also build an atmosphere in which methane is the principal carbon species. We describe the possible chemical routes for photosynthesis starting from methane and show that less energy and lower energy photons could drive CH4-based photosynthesis as compared with CO2-based photosynthesis. We find that a by-product biosignature gas is likely to be H2, which is not distinct from the hydrogen already present in the environment. Ammonia is a potential biosignature gas of hydrogenic photosynthesis that is unlikely to be generated abiologically. We suggest that the evolution of methane-based photosynthesis is at least as likely as the evolution of anoxygenic photosynthesis on Earth and may support the evolution of complex life.
Life2014, 4(4), 681-715; doi:10.3390/life4040681 - published 13 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In hypersaline environments, haloarchaea (halophilic members of the Archaea) are the dominant organisms, and the viruses that infect them, haloarchaeoviruses are at least ten times more abundant. Since their discovery in 1974, described haloarchaeoviruses include head-tailed, pleomorphic, spherical and spindle-shaped morphologies, representing Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, Podoviridae, Pleolipoviridae, Sphaerolipoviridae and Fuselloviridae families. This review overviews current knowledge of haloarchaeoviruses, providing information about classification, morphotypes, macromolecules, life cycles, genetic manipulation and gene regulation, and host-virus responses. In so doing, the review incorporates knowledge from laboratory studies of isolated viruses, field-based studies of environmental samples, and both genomic and metagenomic analyses of haloarchaeoviruses. What emerges is that some haloarchaeoviruses possess unique morphological and life cycle properties, while others share features with other viruses (e.g.,bacteriophages). Their interactions with hosts influence community structure and evolution of populations that exist in hypersaline environments as diverse as seawater evaporation ponds, to hot desert or Antarctic lakes. The discoveries of their wide-ranging and important roles in the ecology and evolution of hypersaline communities serves as a strong motivator for future investigations of both laboratory-model and environmental systems.
Life2014, 4(4), 666-680; doi:10.3390/life4040666 - published 7 November 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Ferredoxins (Fed), occurring in most organisms, are small proteins that use their iron-sulfur cluster to distribute electrons to various metabolic pathways, likely including hydrogen production. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on ferredoxins in cyanobacteria, the prokaryotes regarded as important producers of the oxygenic atmosphere and biomass for the food chain, as well as promising cell factories for biofuel production. Most studies of ferredoxins were performed in the model strain, Synechocystis PCC6803, which possesses nine highly-conserved ferredoxins encoded by monocistronic or operonic genes, some of which are localized in conserved genome regions. Fed1, encoded by a light-inducible gene, is a highly abundant protein essential to photosynthesis. Fed2-Fed9, encoded by genes differently regulated by trophic conditions, are low-abundant proteins that play prominent roles in the tolerance to environmental stresses. Concerning the selectivity/redundancy of ferredoxin, we report that Fed1, Fed7 and Fed9 belong to ferredoxin-glutaredoxin-thioredoxin crosstalk pathways operating in the protection against oxidative and metal stresses. Furthermore, Fed7 specifically interacts with a DnaJ-like protein, an interaction that has been conserved in photosynthetic eukaryotes in the form of a composite protein comprising DnaJ- and Fed7-like domains. Fed9 specifically interacts with the Flv3 flavodiiron protein acting in the photoreduction of O2 to H2O.