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Microbiology. 2005 Jan;151(Pt 1):35-43.

Respiratory gene clusters of Metallosphaera sedula - differential expression and transcriptional organization.

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  • 1School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.


Metallosphaera sedula is a thermoacidophilic Crenarchaeon which is capable of leaching metals from sulfidic ores. The authors have investigated the presence and expression of genes encoding respiratory complexes in this organism when grown heterotrophically or chemolithotrophically on either sulfur or pyrite. The presence of three gene clusters, encoding two terminal oxidase complexes, the quinol oxidase SoxABCD and the SoxM oxidase supercomplex, and a gene cluster encoding a high-potential cytochrome b and components of a bc(1) complex analogue (cbsBA-soxL2N gene cluster) was established. Expression studies showed that the soxM gene was expressed to high levels during heterotrophic growth of M. sedula on yeast extract, while the soxABCD mRNA was most abundant in cells grown on sulfur. Reduced-minus-oxidized difference spectra of cell membranes showed cytochrome-related peaks that correspond to published spectra of Sulfolobus-type terminal oxidase complexes. In pyrite-grown cells, expression levels of the two monitored oxidase gene clusters were reduced by a factor of 10-12 relative to maximal expression levels, although spectra of membranes clearly contained oxidase-associated haems, suggesting the presence of additional gene clusters encoding terminal oxidases in M. sedula. Pyrite- and sulfur-grown cells contained high levels of the cbsA transcript, which encodes a membrane-bound cytochrome b with a possible role in iron oxidation or chemolithotrophy. The cbsA gene is not co-transcribed with the soxL2N genes, and therefore does not appear to be an integral part of this bc(1) complex analogue. The data show for the first time the differential expression of the Sulfolobus-type terminal oxidase gene clusters in a Crenarchaeon in response to changing growth modes.

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