Adaptation and acclimation of photosynthetic microorganisms to permanently cold environments.
ABSTRACT: Persistently cold environments constitute one of our world's largest ecosystems, and microorganisms dominate the biomass and metabolic activity in these extreme environments. The stress of low temperatures on life is exacerbated in organisms that rely on photoautrophic production of organic carbon and energy sources. Phototrophic organisms must coordinate temperature-independent reactions of light absorption and photochemistry with temperature-dependent processes of electron transport and utilization of energy sources through growth and metabolism. Despite this conundrum, phototrophic microorganisms thrive in all cold ecosystems described and (together with chemoautrophs) provide the base of autotrophic production in low-temperature food webs. Psychrophilic (organisms with a requirement for low growth temperatures) and psychrotolerant (organisms tolerant of low growth temperatures) photoautotrophs rely on low-temperature acclimative and adaptive strategies that have been described for other low-temperature-adapted heterotrophic organisms, such as cold-active proteins and maintenance of membrane fluidity. In addition, photoautrophic organisms possess other strategies to balance the absorption of light and the transduction of light energy to stored chemical energy products (NADPH and ATP) with downstream consumption of photosynthetically derived energy products at low temperatures. Lastly, differential adaptive and acclimative mechanisms exist in phototrophic microorganisms residing in low-temperature environments that are exposed to constant low-light environments versus high-light- and high-UV-exposed phototrophic assemblages.
Project description:Most organisms experience variable and sometimes suboptimal environments in their lifetime. While stressful environmental conditions are normally viewed as a strong selective force, they can also impact directly on the genetic basis of traits such as through environment-dependent gene action. Here, we used the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel to investigate the impact of developmental temperature on variance components and evolutionary potential of cold tolerance. We reared 166 lines at five temperatures and assessed cold tolerance of adult male flies from each line and environment. We show (1) that the expression of genetic variation for cold tolerance is highly dependent on developmental temperature, (2) that the genetic correlation of cold tolerance between environments decreases as developmental temperatures become more distinct, (3) that the correlation between cold tolerance at individual developmental temperatures and plasticity for cold tolerance differs across developmental temperatures, and even switches sign across the thermal developmental gradient, and (4) that evolvability decrease with increasing developmental temperatures. Our results show that the quantitative genetic basis of low temperature tolerance is environment specific. This conclusion is important for the understanding of evolution in variable thermal environments and for designing experiments aimed at pinpointing candidate genes and performing functional analyses of thermal resistance.
Project description:Surfactants, both synthetic and natural, are used in a wide range of industrial applications, including the degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons. Organisms from extreme environments are well-adapted to the harsh conditions and represent an exciting avenue of discovery of naturally occurring biosurfactants, yet microorganisms from cold environments have been largely overlooked for their biotechnological potential as biosurfactant producers. In this study, four cold-adapted bacterial isolates from Antarctica are investigated for their ability to produce biosurfactants. Here we report on the physical properties and chemical structure of biosurfactants from the genera Janthinobacterium, Psychrobacter, and Serratia. These organisms were able to grow on diesel, motor oil, and crude oil at 4 °C. Putative identification showed the presence of sophorolipids and rhamnolipids. Emulsion index test (E24) activity ranged from 36.4-66.7%. Oil displacement tests were comparable to 0.1-1.0% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) solutions. Data presented herein are the first report of organisms of the genus Janthinobacterium to produce biosurfactants and their metabolic capabilities to degrade diverse petroleum hydrocarbons. The organisms' ability to produce biosurfactants and grow on different hydrocarbons as their sole carbon and energy source at low temperatures (4 °C) makes them suitable candidates for the exploration of hydrocarbon bioremediation in low-temperature environments.
Project description:Despite the presence and abundance of archaea in low-temperature environments, little information is available regarding their physiological and biochemical properties. In order to investigate the adaptation of archaeal proteins to low temperatures, we purified and characterized the elongation factor 2 (EF-2) protein from the Antarctic methanogen Methanococcoides burtonii, which was expressed in Escherichia coli, and compared it to the recombinant EF-2 protein from a phylogenetically related thermophile, Methanosarcina thermophila. Using differential scanning calorimetry to assess protein stability and enzyme assays for the intrinsic GTPase activity, we identified biochemical and biophysical properties that are characteristic of the cold-adapted protein. This includes a higher activity at low temperatures caused by a decrease of the activation energy necessary for GTP hydrolysis and a decreased activation energy for the irreversible denaturation of the protein, which indicates a less thermostable structure. Comparison of the in vitro properties of the proteins with the temperature-dependent characteristics of growth of the organisms indicates that additional cytoplasmic factors are likely to be important for the complete thermal adaptation of the proteins in vivo. This is the first study to address thermal adaptation of proteins from a free-living, cold-adapted archaeon, and our results indicate that the ability of the Antarctic methanogen to adapt to the cold is likely to involve protein structural changes.
Project description:Permafrost subzero environments harbor diverse, active communities of microorganisms. However, our understanding of the subzero growth, metabolisms, and adaptive properties of these microbes remains very limited. We performed transcriptomic analyses on two subzero-growing permafrost isolates with different growth profiles in order to characterize and compare their cold temperature growth and cold-adaptive strategies. The two organisms, Rhodococcus sp. JG3 (-5 to 30°C) and Polaromonas sp. Eur3 1.2.1 (-5 to 22°C), shared several common responses during low temperature growth, including induction of translation and ribosomal processes, upregulation of nutrient transport, increased oxidative and osmotic stress responses, and stimulation of polysaccharide capsule synthesis. Recombination appeared to be an important adaptive strategy for both isolates at low temperatures, likely as a mechanism to increase genetic diversity and the potential for survival in cold systems. While Rhodococcus sp. JG3 favored upregulating iron and amino acid transport, sustaining redox potential, and modulating fatty acid synthesis and composition during growth at -5°C compared to 25°C, Polaromonas sp. Eur3 1.2.1 increased the relative abundance of transcripts involved in primary energy metabolism and the electron transport chain, in addition to signal transduction and peptidoglycan synthesis at 0°C compared to 20°C. The increase in energy metabolism may explain why Polaromonas sp. Eur3 1.2.1 is able to sustain growth rates at 0°C comparable to those at higher temperatures. For Rhodococcus sp. JG3, flexibility in use of carbon sources, iron acquisition, control of membrane fatty acid composition, and modulating redox and co-factor potential may be ways in which this organism is able to sustain growth over a wider range of temperatures. Increasing our understanding of the microbes in these habitats helps us better understand active pathways and metabolisms in extreme environments. Identifying novel, thermolabile, and cold-active enzymes from studies such as this is also of great interest to the biotechnology and food industries.
Project description:Temperature is one of the defining parameters of an ecological niche. Most organisms thrive within a temperature range that rarely exceeds ~30 °C, but the deep subsurface bacterium Kosmotoga olearia can grow over a temperature range of 59 °C (20-79 °C). To identify genes correlated with this flexible phenotype, we compared transcriptomes of K. olearia cultures grown at its optimal 65 °C to those at 30, 40, and 77 °C. The temperature treatments affected expression of 573 of 2224 K. olearia genes. Notably, this transcriptional response elicits re-modeling of the cellular membrane and changes in metabolism, with increased expression of genes involved in energy and carbohydrate metabolism at high temperatures and up-regulation of amino acid metabolism at lower temperatures. At sub-optimal temperatures, many transcriptional changes were similar to those observed in mesophilic bacteria at physiologically low temperatures, including up-regulation of typical cold stress genes and ribosomal proteins. Comparative genomic analysis of additional Thermotogae genomes indicates that one of K. olearia's strategies for low-temperature growth is increased copy number of some typical cold response genes through duplication and/or lateral acquisition. At 77 °C one-third of the up-regulated genes are of hypothetical function, indicating that many features of high-temperature growth are unknown.
Project description:Phototrophic biofilms occur on surfaces exposed to light in a range of terrestrial and aquatic environments. Oxygenic phototrophs like diatoms, green algae, and cyanobacteria are the major primary producers that generate energy and reduce carbon dioxide, providing the system with organic substrates and oxygen. Photosynthesis fuels processes and conversions in the total biofilm community, including the metabolism of heterotrophic organisms. A matrix of polymeric substances secreted by phototrophs and heterotrophs enhances the attachment of the biofilm community. This review discusses the actual and potential applications of phototrophic biofilms in wastewater treatment, bioremediation, fish-feed production, biohydrogen production, and soil improvement.
Project description:Kelps, brown algae of the order Laminariales, dominate rocky shores and form huge kelp beds which provide habitat and nurseries for various marine organisms. Whereas the basic physiological and ecophysiological characteristics of kelps are well studied, the molecular processes underlying acclimation to different light and temperature conditions are still poorly understood. Therefore we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the physiological acclimation to light and temperature stress. Sporophytes of S. latissima were exposed to combinations of light intensities and temperatures, and microarray hybridizations were performed to determine changes in gene expression patterns. This first large-scale transcriptomic study of a kelp species shows that S. latissima responds to temperature and light stress with a multitude of transcriptional changes: up to 32% of genes showed an altered expression after the exposure experiments. High temperature had stronger effects on gene expression in S. latissima than low temperature, reflected by the higher number of temperature-responsive genes. We gained insights into underlying molecular processes of acclimation, which includes adjustment of the primary metabolism as well as induction of several ROS scavengers and a sophisticated regulation of Hsps. We show that S. latissima, as a cold adapted species, must make stronger efforts for acclimating to high than to low temperatures. The strongest response was caused by the combination of high temperatures with high light intensities, which proved most harmful for the alga.
Project description:Low temperature is a primary determinant of growth and survival among organisms and almost all animals need to withstand temperature fluctuations in their surroundings. We used the hermaphroditic nematode Pristionchus pacificus to examine variation in cold tolerance in samples collected from 18 widespread locations. Samples were challenged by exposure to both direct and gradual low temperature after culture in the laboratory at 20°C. A short-term acclimation treatment was also applied to assess cold tolerance following a pre-exposure cold treatment. Finally, genotype-by-environment (G × E) analysis was performed on a subset of samples cultured at two additional temperatures (15°C and 25°C). P. pacificus displayed a high degree of natural variation in cold tolerance, corresponding to the presence of three distinct phenotypic classes among samples: cold tolerant, non-cold tolerant, cold tolerant plastic. Survival of gradual cold exposure was significantly higher than survival of direct exposure to low temperature and a cold exposure pre-treatment significantly enhanced cold tolerance in some samples. By focusing on a sub-set of well-sampled locations from tropical La Réunion Island, we found evidence of significant effects of genotype and environment on cold tolerance, and we also showed that, within the different Réunion locations sampled, all three phenotypic classes are generally well represented. Taken together, our results show that P. pacificus exhibits a highly plastic tolerance to cold exposure that may be partly driven by differential trait sensitivity in diverse environments.
Project description:High-altitude environments present a range of biochemical and physiological challenges for organisms through decreases in oxygen, pressure, and temperature relative to lowland habitats. Protein-level adaptations to hypoxic high-altitude conditions have been identified in multiple terrestrial endotherms; however, comparable adaptations in aquatic ectotherms, such as fishes, have not been as extensively characterized. In enzyme proteins, cold adaptation is attained through functional trade-offs between stability and activity, often mediated by substitutions outside the active site. Little is known whether signaling proteins [e.g., G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)] exhibit natural variation in response to cold temperatures. Rhodopsin (RH1), the temperature-sensitive visual pigment mediating dim-light vision, offers an opportunity to enhance our understanding of thermal adaptation in a model GPCR. Here, we investigate the evolution of rhodopsin function in an Andean mountain catfish system spanning a range of elevations. Using molecular evolutionary analyses and site-directed mutagenesis experiments, we provide evidence for cold adaptation in RH1. We find that unique amino acid substitutions occur at sites under positive selection in high-altitude catfishes, located at opposite ends of the RH1 intramolecular hydrogen-bonding network. Natural high-altitude variants introduced into these sites via mutagenesis have limited effects on spectral tuning, yet decrease the stability of dark-state and light-activated rhodopsin, accelerating the decay of ligand-bound forms. As found in cold-adapted enzymes, this phenotype likely compensates for a cold-induced decrease in kinetic rates-properties of rhodopsin that mediate rod sensitivity and visual performance. Our results support a role for natural variation in enhancing the performance of GPCRs in response to cold temperatures.
Project description:Psychrophiles are extremophilic organisms capable of thriving in cold environments. Proteins from these cold-adapted organisms can remain physiologically functional at low temperatures, but are structurally unstable even at moderate temperatures. Here, we report the crystal structure of adenylate kinase (AK) from the Antarctic fish Notothenia coriiceps, and identify the structural basis of cold adaptation by comparison with homologues from tropical fishes including Danio rerio. The structure of N. coriiceps AK (AKNc) revealed suboptimal hydrophobic packing around three Val residues in its central CORE domain, which are replaced with Ile residues in D. rerio AK (AKDr). The Val-to-Ile mutations that improve hydrophobic CORE packing in AKNc increased stability at high temperatures but decreased activity at low temperatures, suggesting that the suboptimal hydrophobic CORE packing is important for cold adaptation. Such linkage between stability and activity was also observed in AKDr. Ile-to-Val mutations that destabilized the tropical AK resulted in increased activity at low temperatures. Our results provide the structural basis of cold adaptation of a psychrophilic enzyme from a multicellular, eukaryotic organism, and highlight the similarities and differences in the structural adjustment of vertebrate and bacterial psychrophilic AKs during cold adaptation.