Abstract: In recent years, biodiesel, a substitute for fossil fuels, has led to the excessive production of crude glycerol. The resulting crude glycerol can possess a high concentration of salts and an alkaline pH. Moreover, current crude glycerol purification methods are expensive, rendering this former commodity a waste product. However, Halanaerobium hydrogeniformans, a haloalkaliphilic bacterium, possesses the metabolic capability to convert glycerol into 1,3-propanediol, a valuable commodity compound, without the need for salt dilution or adjusting pH when grown on this waste. Experiments were performed with different combinations of 24 medium components to determine their impact on the production of 1,3-propanediol by using a fractional factorial design. Tested medium components were selected based on data from the organism’s genome. Analysis of HPLC data revealed enhanced production of 1,3-propanediol with additional glycerol, pH, vitamin B12, ammonium ions, sodium sulfide, cysteine, iron, and cobalt. However, other selected components; nitrate ions, phosphate ions, sulfate ions, sodium:potassium ratio, chloride, calcium, magnesium, silicon, manganese, zinc, borate, nickel, molybdenum, tungstate, copper and aluminum, did not enhance 1,3-propanediol production. The use of a fractional factorial design enabled the quick and efficient assessment of the impact of 24 different medium components on 1,3-propanediol production from glycerol from a haloalkaliphilic bacterium.
Abstract: Facts concerning the stability and functioning of key biomolecular components suggest that cellular life should no longer be viable above a few thousand atmospheres (200–300 MPa). However, organisms are seen to survive in the laboratory to much higher pressures, extending into the GPa or even tens of GPa ranges. This is causing main questions to be posed concerning the survival mechanisms of simple to complex organisms. Understanding the ultimate pressure survival of organisms is critical for food sterilization and agricultural products conservation technologies. On Earth the deep biosphere is limited in its extent by geothermal gradients but if life forms exist in cooler habitats elsewhere then survival to greater depths must be considered. The extent of pressure resistance and survival appears to vary greatly with the timescale of the exposure. For example, shock experiments on nanosecond timescales reveal greatly enhanced survival rates extending to higher pressure. Some organisms could survive bolide impacts thus allowing successful transport between planetary bodies. We summarize some of the main questions raised by recent results and their implications for the survival of life under extreme compression conditions and its possible extent in the laboratory and throughout the universe.
Abstract: We propose that the first step in the origin of cellular life on Earth was the self-assembly of fatty acids with the building blocks of RNA and protein, resulting in a stable aggregate. This scheme provides explanations for the selection and concentration of the prebiotic components of cells; the stabilization and growth of early membranes; the catalysis of biopolymer synthesis; and the co-localization of membranes, RNA and protein. In this article, we review the evidence and rationale for the formation of the proposed aggregate: (i) the well-established phenomenon of self-assembly of fatty acids to form vesicles; (ii) our published evidence that nucleobases and sugars bind to and stabilize such vesicles; and (iii) the reasons why amino acids likely do so as well. We then explain how the conformational constraints and altered chemical environment due to binding of the components to the membrane could facilitate the formation of nucleosides, oligonucleotides and peptides. We conclude by discussing how the resulting oligomers, even if short and random, could have increased vesicle stability and growth more than their building blocks did, and how competition among these vesicles could have led to longer polymers with complex functions.
Abstract: Gene duplication is an important mechanism of molecular evolution. It offers a fast track to modification, diversification, redundancy or rescue of gene function. However, duplication may also be neutral or (slightly) deleterious, and often ends in pseudo-geneisation. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic distribution of ultra large gene families on long and short evolutionary time scales. In particular, we focus on a family of NACHT-domain and leucine-rich-repeat-containing (NLR)-genes, which we previously found in large numbers to occupy one chromosome arm of the zebrafish genome. We were interested to see whether such a tight clustering is characteristic for ultra large gene families. Our data reconfirm that most gene family inflations are lineage-specific, but we can only identify very few gene clusters. Based on our observations we hypothesise that, beyond a certain size threshold, ultra large gene families continue to proliferate in a mechanism we term “run-away evolution”. This process might ultimately lead to the failure of genomic integrity and drive species to extinction.
Abstract: The existence of multiple copies of genes is a well-known phenomenon. A gene family is a set of sufficiently similar genes, formed by gene duplication. In earlier works conducted on a limited number of completely sequenced and annotated genomes it was found that size of gene family and size of genome are positively correlated. Additionally, it was found that several atypical microbes deviated from the observed general trend. In this study, we reexamined these associations on a larger dataset consisting of 1484 prokaryotic genomes and using several ranking approaches. We applied ranking methods in such a way that genomes with lower numbers of gene copies would have lower rank. Until now only simple ranking methods were used; we applied the Kemeny optimal aggregation approach as well. Regression and correlation analysis were utilized in order to accurately quantify and characterize the relationships between measures of paralog indices and genome size. In addition, boxplot analysis was employed as a method for outlier detection. We found that, in general, all paralog indexes positively correlate with an increase of genome size. As expected, different groups of atypical prokaryotic genomes were found for different types of paralog quantities. Mycoplasmataceae and Halobacteria appeared to be among the most interesting candidates for further research of evolution through gene duplication.