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BMC Bioinformatics. 2007 Mar 8;8 Suppl 1:S15.

Environment specific substitution tables for thermophilic proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK.



Thermophilic organisms are able to live at high temperatures ranging from 50 to > 100 degrees C. Their proteins must be sufficiently stable to function under these extreme conditions; however, the basis for thermostability remains elusive. Subtle differences between thermophilic and mesophilic molecules can be found when sequences or structures from homologous proteins are compared, but often these differences are family-specific and few general rules have been derived. The availability of complete genome sequences has now made it feasible to perform a large-scale comparison between mesophilic and thermophilic proteins, the latter of which primarily come from archaeal genomes although a few complete genomes of thermophilic eubacteria are also available.


We compared mesophilic proteins with their thermophilic counterparts of archaeal or eubacterial origins independently. This was based on the assumption that in these two kingdoms, different mechanisms may have been exploited for the adaptation of proteins at high temperatures. We derived the environment specific amino acid compositions of thermophilic proteins from 10 archaeal and seven eubacterial genomes, by aligning a large number of sequences from thermophilic proteins with their close mesophilic homologues of known three-dimensional (3D) structure. We further analysed environment specific substitutions, which lead from mesophilic proteins to either archaeal or eubacterial thermophilic proteins.


Our comparisons were based on homology-based structural predictions for a large number of thermophilic proteins. We demonstrated that thermal adaptation in the archaeal and eubacterial kingdoms is achieved in different ways. The main differences concern the usage of Gln, Ile and positively charged amino acids. In particular archaeal organisms appeared to have acquired thermostability by substituting non-charged polar amino acids (such as Gln) with Glu and Lys, and non-polar amino acids with Ile on the surface of proteins.

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