Life2015, 5(2), 1264-1281; doi:10.3390/life5021264 (registering DOI) - published 21 April 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Sm and Sm-like proteins represent an evolutionarily conserved family with key roles in RNA metabolism. Sm-based regulation is diverse and can range in scope from eukaryotic mRNA splicing to bacterial quorum sensing, with at least one step in these processes being mediated by an RNA-associated molecular assembly built on Sm proteins. Despite the availability of several 3D-structures of Sm-like archaeal proteins (SmAPs), their function has remained elusive. The aim of this study was to shed light on the function of SmAP1 and SmAP2 of the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus (Sso). Using co-purification followed by RNASeq different classes of non-coding RNAs and mRNAs were identified that co-purified either with both paralogues or solely with Sso-SmAP1 or Sso-SmAP2. The large number of associated intron-containing tRNAs and tRNA/rRNA modifying RNAs may suggest a role of the two Sso-SmAPs in tRNA/rRNA processing. Moreover, the 3D structure of Sso-SmAP2 was elucidated. Like Sso-SmAP1, Sso-SmAP2 forms homoheptamers. The binding of both proteins to distinct RNA substrates is discussed in terms of surface conservation, structural differences in the RNA binding sites and differences in the electrostatic surface potential of the two Sso-SmAP proteins. Taken together, this study may hint to common and different functions of both Sso-SmAPs in Sso RNA metabolism.
Life2015, 5(2), 1239-1263; doi:10.3390/life5021239 - published 10 April 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Contemporary biological cells are highly sophisticated dynamic compartment systems which separate an internal volume from the external medium through a boundary, which controls, in complex ways, the exchange of matter and energy between the cell’s interior and the environment. Since such compartmentalization is a fundamental principle of all forms of life, scenarios have been elaborated about the emergence of prebiological compartments on early Earth, in particular about their likely structural characteristics and dynamic features. Chemical systems that consist of potentially prebiological compartments and chemical reaction networks have been designed to model pre-cellular systems. These systems are often referred to as “protocells”. Past and current protocell model systems are presented and compared. Since the prebiotic formation of cell-like compartments is directly linked to the prebiotic availability of compartment building blocks, a few aspects on the likely chemical inventory on the early Earth are also summarized.
Abstract: Exopolysaccharides (EPSs) are an important class of biopolymers with great ecological importance. In natural environments, they are a common feature of microbial biofilms, where they play key protective and structural roles. As the primary colonizers of constrained environments, such as desert soils and lithic and exposed substrates, cyanobacteria are the first contributors to the synthesis of the EPSs constituting the extracellular polymeric matrix that favors the formation of microbial associations with varying levels of complexity called biofilms. Cyanobacterial colonization represents the first step for the formation of biofilms with different levels of complexity. In all of the possible systems in which cyanobacteria are involved, the synthesis of EPSs contributes a structurally-stable and hydrated microenvironment, as well as chemical/physical protection against biotic and abiotic stress factors. Notwithstanding the important roles of cyanobacterial EPSs, many aspects related to their roles and the relative elicited biotic and abiotic factors have still to be clarified. The aim of this survey is to outline the state-of-the-art of the importance of the cyanobacterial EPS excretion, both for the producing cells and for the microbial associations in which cyanobacteria are a key component.
Life2015, 5(2), 1204-1217; doi:10.3390/life5021204 - published 30 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We simulate pH-dependent growth of cyanobacteria with an ecosystem model for the central Baltic Sea. Four model components—a life cycle model of cyanobacteria, a biogeochemical model, a carbonate chemistry model and a water column model—are coupled via the framework for aquatic biogeochemical models. The coupled model is forced by the output of a regional climate model, based on the A1B emission scenario. With this coupled model, we perform simulations for the period 1968–2098. Our simulation experiments suggest that in the future, cyanobacteria growth is hardly affected by the projected pH decrease. However, in the simulation phase prior to 1980, cyanobacteria growth and N2-fixation are limited by the relatively high pH. The observed absence of cyanobacteria before the 1960s may thus be explained not only by lower eutrophication levels, but also by a higher alkalinity.
Life2015, 5(2), 1172-1203; doi:10.3390/life5021172 - published 30 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Chlorophyll a (Chl) is a light-absorbing tetrapyrrole pigment that is essential for photosynthesis. The molecule is produced from glutamate via a complex biosynthetic pathway comprised of at least 15 enzymatic steps. The first half of the Chl pathway is shared with heme biosynthesis, and the latter half, called the Mg-branch, is specific to Mg-containing Chl a. Bilin pigments, such as phycocyanobilin, are additionally produced from heme, so these light-harvesting pigments also share many common biosynthetic steps with Chl biosynthesis. Some of these common steps in the biosynthetic pathways of heme, Chl and bilins require molecular oxygen for catalysis, such as oxygen-dependent coproporphyrinogen III oxidase. Cyanobacteria thrive in diverse environments in terms of oxygen levels. To cope with Chl deficiency caused by low-oxygen conditions, cyanobacteria have developed elaborate mechanisms to maintain Chl production, even under microoxic environments. The use of enzymes specialized for low-oxygen conditions, such as oxygen-independent coproporphyrinogen III oxidase, constitutes part of a mechanism adapted to low-oxygen conditions. Another mechanism adaptive to hypoxic conditions is mediated by the transcriptional regulator ChlR that senses low oxygen and subsequently activates the transcription of genes encoding enzymes that work under low-oxygen tension. In diazotrophic cyanobacteria, this multilayered regulation also contributes in Chl biosynthesis by supporting energy production for nitrogen fixation that also requires low-oxygen conditions. We will also discuss the evolutionary implications of cyanobacterial tetrapyrrole biosynthesis and regulation, because low oxygen-type enzymes also appear to be evolutionarily older than oxygen-dependent enzymes.
Life2015, 5(2), 1141-1171; doi:10.3390/life5021141 - published 27 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The marine Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are the numerically dominant cyanobacteria in the ocean and important in global carbon fixation. They have evolved a CO2-concentrating-mechanism, of which the central component is the carboxysome, a self-assembling proteinaceous organelle. Two types of carboxysome, α and β, encapsulating form IA and form IB d-ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, respectively, differ in gene organization and associated proteins. In contrast to the β-carboxysome, the assembly process of the α-carboxysome is enigmatic. Moreover, an absolutely conserved α-carboxysome protein, CsoS2, is of unknown function and has proven recalcitrant to crystallization. Here, we present studies on the CsoS2 protein in three model organisms and show that CsoS2 is vital for α-carboxysome biogenesis. The primary structure of CsoS2 appears tripartite, composed of an N-terminal, middle (M)-, and C-terminal region. Repetitive motifs can be identified in the N- and M-regions. Multiple lines of evidence suggest CsoS2 is highly flexible, possibly an intrinsically disordered protein. Based on our results from bioinformatic, biophysical, genetic and biochemical approaches, including peptide array scanning for protein-protein interactions, we propose a model for CsoS2 function and its spatial location in the α-carboxysome. Analogies between the pathway for β-carboxysome biogenesis and our model for α-carboxysome assembly are discussed.