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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Nov;79(21):6637-46. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01627-13. Epub 2013 Aug 23.

Stationary phase and nutrient levels trigger transcription of a genomic locus containing a novel peptide (TM1316) in the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


The genome of the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima encodes numerous putative peptides/proteins of 100 amino acids or less. While most of these open reading frames (ORFs) are transcribed during growth, their corresponding physiological roles are largely unknown. The onset of stationary phase in T. maritima was accompanied by significant morphological changes and upregulation of several ORFs located in the TM1298-TM1336 genome locus. This region contains putative HicAB toxin-antitoxin pairs, hypothetical proteins, radical S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) enzymes, and ABC transporters. Of particular note was the TM1315-TM1319 operon, which includes a putative 31-amino-acid peptide (TM1316) that was the most highly transcribed gene in the transcriptome during stationary phase. Antibodies directed against a synthetic version of TM1316 were used to track its production, which correlated closely with transcriptomic data. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that TM1316 was localized to the cell envelope and prominent in cell aggregates formed during stationary phase. The only functionally characterized locus with an organization similar to that of TM1315-TM1319 is in Bacillus subtilis, which contains subtilosin A, a cyclic peptide with Cys-to-α-carbon linkages that functions as an antilisterial bacteriocin. While the organization of TM1316 resembled that of the Bacillus peptide (e.g., in its number of amino acids and spacing of Cys residues), preparations containing high levels of TM1316 affected the growth of neither Thermotoga species nor Pyrococcus furiosus, a hyperthermophilic archaeon isolated from the same locale as T. maritima. Several other putative Cys-rich peptides could be identified in the TM1298-TM1336 locus, and while their roles are also unclear, they merit examination as potential antimicrobial agents in hyperthermophilic biotopes.

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