Browsing Publications of RG Environmental Microbiology (UMW) by Subjects
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Dynamics of reductive genome evolution in mitochondria and obligate intracellular microbes.Reductive evolution in mitochondria and obligate intracellular microbes has led to a significant reduction in their genome size and guanine plus cytosine content (GC). We show that genome shrinkage during reductive evolution in prokaryotes follows an exponential decay pattern and provide a method to predict the extent of this decay on an evolutionary timescale. We validated predictions by comparison with estimated extents of genome reduction known to have occurred in mitochondria and Buchnera aphidicola, through comparative genomics and by drawing on available fossil evidences. The model shows how the mitochondrial ancestor would have quickly shed most of its genome, shortly after its incorporation into the protoeukaryotic cell and prior to codivergence subsequent to the split of eukaryotic lineages. It also predicts that the primary rickettsial parasitic event would have occurred between 180 and 425 million years ago (MYA), an event of relatively recent evolutionary origin considering the fact that Rickettsia and mitochondria evolved from a common alphaproteobacterial ancestor. This suggests that the symbiotic events of Rickettsia and mitochondria originated at different time points. Moreover, our model results predict that the ancestor of Wigglesworthia glossinidia brevipalpis, dated around the time of origin of its symbiotic association with the tsetse fly (50-100 MYA), was likely to have been an endosymbiont itself, thus supporting an earlier proposition that Wigglesworthia, which is currently a maternally inherited primary endosymbiont, evolved from a secondary endosymbiont.
Obligate oil-degrading marine bacteria.Over the past few years, a new and ecophysiologically unusual group of marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria - the obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (OHCB) - has been recognized and shown to play a significant role in the biological removal of petroleum hydrocarbons from polluted marine waters. The introduction of oil or oil constituents into seawater leads to successive blooms of a relatively limited number of indigenous marine bacterial genera--Alcanivorax, Marinobacter, Thallassolituus, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira and a few others (the OHCB)--which are present at low or undetectable levels before the polluting event. The types of OHCB that bloom depend on the latitude/temperature, salinity, redox and other prevailing physical-chemical factors. These blooms result in the rapid degradation of many oil constituents, a process that can be accelerated further by supplementation with limiting nutrients. Genome sequencing and functional genomic analysis of Alcanivorax borkumensis, the paradigm of OHCB, has provided significant insights into the genomic basis of the efficiency and versatility of its hydrocarbon utilization, the metabolic routes underlying its special hydrocarbon diet, and its ecological success. These and other studies have revealed the potential of OHCB for multiple biotechnological applications that include not only oil pollution mitigation, but also biopolymer production and biocatalysis.
Proteomic insights into metabolic adaptations in Alcanivorax borkumensis induced by alkane utilization.Alcanivorax borkumensis is a ubiquitous marine petroleum oil-degrading bacterium with an unusual physiology specialized for alkane metabolism. This "hydrocarbonoclastic" bacterium degrades an exceptionally broad range of alkane hydrocarbons but few other substrates. The proteomic analysis presented here reveals metabolic features of the hydrocarbonoclastic lifestyle. Specifically, hexadecane-grown and pyruvate-grown cells differed in the expression of 97 cytoplasmic and membrane-associated proteins whose genes appeared to be components of 46 putative operon structures. Membrane proteins up-regulated in alkane-grown cells included three enzyme systems able to convert alkanes via terminal oxidation to fatty acids, namely, enzymes encoded by the well-known alkB1 gene cluster and two new alkane hydroxylating systems, a P450 cytochrome monooxygenase and a putative flavin-binding monooxygenase, and enzymes mediating beta-oxidation of fatty acids. Cytoplasmic proteins up-regulated in hexadecane-grown cells reflect a central metabolism based on a fatty acid diet, namely, enzymes of the glyoxylate bypass and of the gluconeogenesis pathway, able to provide key metabolic intermediates, like phosphoenolpyruvate, from fatty acids. They also include enzymes for synthesis of riboflavin and of unsaturated fatty acids and cardiolipin, which presumably reflect membrane restructuring required for membranes to adapt to perturbations induced by the massive influx of alkane oxidation enzymes. Ancillary functions up-regulated included the lipoprotein releasing system (Lol), presumably associated with biosurfactant release, and polyhydroxyalkanoate synthesis enzymes associated with carbon storage under conditions of carbon surfeit. The existence of three different alkane-oxidizing systems is consistent with the broad range of oil hydrocarbons degraded by A. borkumensis and its ecological success in oil-contaminated marine habitats.