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ARCHAEBACTERIA

CONTENTS

Introduction
Archaeal cell walls
Archaeal lipids & membranes
Genetics & molecular biology
Metabolism
Archaeal taxonomy
Significance of Archaebacteria
References

Introduction

Introduction to the
Archaea
Morphology

Stain either Gram +ve or Gram ve


Shapes Spherical, rod, spiral, lobed,
irregularly shaped or pleomorphic
Single cells or filaments or aggregates,
diameter from 0.1 to over 15 m
Multiplication binary fission, budding,
fragmentation or other mechanisms
Contd

Physiology
Aerobic, facultative and strictly anaerobic
Range from chemolithotrophs to
organotrophs
Mesophilic & hyperthermophiles
Found in extreme environments
Few are symbionts in animal digestive system

Contd

Archaeal cell walls

Structure
Gram +ve Archaea
Single thick homogenous layer as in Gram
+ve bacteria

Gram +ve Archaea


lack outer membrane & complex
peptidoglycan network
have a surface layer of proteins or
glycoproteins
Contd

Chemistry
Gram +ve Archaea
Variety of complex polymers
Methanobacterium pseudomurein
Methanosarcina & Halococcus complex
polysaccharides similar to chondroitin
sulphate of animal connective tissue
Other heteropolysaccharides are also found
Contd

Gram -ve Archaea


Layer of protein or glycoprotein outside their
PM (20 to 40 nm thick)
Methanolobus, Halobacterium & several
extreme thermophiles (Sulfolobus,
Thermoproteus & Pyrodictium) consist of
glycoprotein units
Methanococcus, Metahnomicrobium,
Methanogenium & Desulfurococcus consist of
protein units
Contd

Archaeal Lipids &


Membranes

Branched chain hydrocarbon attached to


glycerol by ether links rather than fatty acids
joined by ester links
Sometimes two glycerol groups form an
extremely long tetraether (40C)
Length is adjusted by cyclizing the chain to
form pentacyclic rings
Polar lipids like phospholipids, sulfolipids &
glycolipids are present
7 to 30% are non polar lipids

Contd

lipids can be combined in various ways


membranes of different rigidity
C20 diethers regular bilayer membrane
C40 tetraether much more rigid monolayer
membrane

Contd

Genetics & Molecular


Biology

Circular DNA like bacteria


Genomes are significantly smaller than
bacteria.
E. coli 2.5 x 109 Daltons
T. acidophilum 0.8 x 109 Daltons

G + C content varies from 21 - 68 mol %


mRNA similar to bacterial mRNA
TC arm of tRNA pseudouridine / 1-methyl
pseudouridine
Contd

Sensitive to anisomycin & insensitive to


chloramphenicol & kanamycin
EF-2 reacts with diphtheria toxin
Many methanogens - nucleosomes
DNA dependent polymerases resemble
eukaryotic enzymes rather than prokaryotic
polymerases

Contd

Metabolism

CH metabolism is best understood


6- phosphofructokinase is absent & E-M p/w
is not followed
Extreme halophiles & thermophiles
modified form of E-D p/w wherein initial
intermediates are not phosphorylated
Methanogens do not catabolise glucose
Gluconeogenesis reversal of E-M p/w
All oxidize pyruvate acetyl coA using
pyruvate oxidoreductase

Contd

Biosynthetic p/w similar to those in other


organisms
Some methanogens can fix atmospheric N2
Few employ glycogen as the main reserve
material

Autotrophy is widespread among


methanogens & extreme thermophiles
Thermoproteus & Sulfolobus fix CO2 by
reductive TCA cycle
Methanogens & extreme thermophiles fix
CO2 by reductive acetyl coA p/w
Contd

Reductive TCA cycle

Contd

Archaeal Taxonomy

Phylum Crenarchaeota
Most are extremely thermophilic & many are
acidophiles and S dependent
S as electron acceptor or electron source
by lithotrophs
Almost all are strict anaerobes & grow in
geothermally heated water / soils that
contain elemental sulfur

Contd

Divided into one class Thermoprotrei &


three orders :
Thermoproteales
Sulfolobales
Desulfurococcales

Contain 69 genera two of the better


studied genera are Thermoproteus &
Sulfolobus

Contd

Sulfolobus
Gram ve, aerobic, irregularly lobed spherical
archaeons
Optimum temp. 70 to 80 0C & optimum pH 2 - 3
hence also referred to as thermoacidophiles
Cell wall lipoprotein & CH, lacks peptidoglycan
Grow lithotrophically on S granules in hot S springs
oxidizing S to Sulfuric acid
Oxygen Is the normal electron acceptor, Fe +3 may
be used
Contd

Sugars & amino acids (glutamate) also serve as C &


energy sources

Contd

Thermoproteus
Gram ve, strictly anaerobic, hyperthermophilic
long thin rod, can be bent or branched
Cell wall consists of glycoprotein
Grows at temp. from 70 - 97 0C & pH 2.5 6.5
Found in hot springs & other hot aquatic habitats
rich in sulfur
Can grow organotrophically & oxidize glucose,
amino acids, alcohols & organic acids with S as TEA
Contd

Grows chemolithtrophically using Hydrogen & S0


CO & CO2 can serve as the sole C source

Thermoproteus

An aquatic spring in Japan with


Thermoproteus growth

Contd

Phylum Euryarchaeota
Very diverse with 7 classes viz. Methanococcus,
Methanobacteria, Halobacteria, Thermoplasmata,
Thermococci, Archaeglobi & Methanopyri
Consists of 9 orders & 15 families
Includes methanogens, extreme halophiles,
sulphate reducers & many extreme thermophiles
with S dependent metabolism

Contd

The Methanogens
Strict anaerobes that obtain energy by converting
CO2, H2, formate, methanol, acetate & other
compounds to either CH4 or CH4 & CO2
Autotrophic when growing on CO2 & H2
5 orders (Methanobacteriales, Methanococcales,
Methanomicrobiales, Methanosarcinales &
Methanopyrales) & 26 genera
Metabolism is unusual
Unique cofactors like H4MPT, MFR, Coenzyme M
Coenzyme F420, Coenzyme F430
Coenzyme F420 carries electrons and Hydrogen
Coenzyme F430 cofactor for methyl co-M methyl reductase

Contd

Methane synthesis from CO2 by


Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum

Contd

Some live autotrophically acetyl coA from two


molecules of CO2 & then converting acetyl coA to
pyruvate & other products
Found in anaerobic environment rich in organic
matter
Rumen & intestine of animals, fresh water &
marine sediments, swamps & marshes, hot springs,
anaerobic sludge digesters & anaerobic protozoa

Ecological significance
Cow belches 200 400 ltrs CH4/day
Source of energy for sewage treatment plants

Contd

E.g. Halobacterium salinarium


Unusual type of photosynthesis
On exposure to sunlight purple membrane
bacteriorhodopsin
Four types of rhodopsins
Bacteriorhodopsin proton transport for ATP
synthesis
Halorhodopsin uses light energy to transport
chloride ions into the cell & maintains KCl conc.
Remaining two photoreceptors, one for red light
& one for blue

Contd

Ecological hazards
Methane gas Greenhouse gas
Can oxidize Fe0
May contribute to corrosion of buried or submerged
iron pipes

M. thermoautotrophicum
Yellowstone NationalContd
Park

The Halobacteria
Class Halobacteria 15 genera in one family, the
Halobacteriaceae
Aerobic chemoheterotrophs with respiratory
metabolism
Non motile or motile by lophotrichous flagella
Absolutely dependent on high NaCl conc.
At least 1.5 M NaCl, growth optimum at 3 4 M
Cell wall disintegrates below 1.5 M conc.
Grow only in high salinity habitats

Cause spoilage of salted fish

Contd

H. salinarium

Purple lake in Australia

Contd

The Thermoplasms
Class Thermoplasmata
Thermoacidophiles that lack cell wall
Two genera, Thermoplasma & Pichrophilus
Thermoplasma
Grows in refuse piles of coal mines
Temperatures from 55 590C & pH 1-2
Plasma membrane is strengthened by large
quantities of diglycerol, tetraethers,
lipopolysaccharides & glycolipids
DNA stabilized by nucleosomes
Contd

At 590C - irregularly shaped & at lower


temperatures spherical
May be motile by flagella

Contd

Picrophilus
Lacks cell wall , has S layer outside PM
Aerobic, irregularly shaped cocci, 1 1.5 m in
diameter
Temp. range 47 650C, optimum temp. 600C
pH below 3.5, optimum pH 0.7
Can grow at pH 0

Contd

Extremely Thermophilic S0
Metabolizers
Class Thermococci, order Thermococcales
Strictly anaerobic
Reduce sulfur to sulfide
Motile by flagella
Optimum growth temp. 88 1000C
Two genera, Thermococcus & Pyrococcus
Contd

Sulfate Reducing Archaea


Class Archaeglobi, order Archaeoglobales
Gram ve, irregular coccoid cells
Cell wall glycoprotein subunits
Electron sources hydrogen, lactate & glucose,
reduce sulfate, sulfite or thiosulfate to sulfide
S is not used as electron acceptor
Extremely thermophilic, optimum temp. around
830C, occur in hydrothermal vents
Contd

Significance of
Archaea

Methanogens are used for the production of


methane which is a rich source of energy
Preparation of glycoproteins & proteins from
archaeal cultures are used to increase bodys
defense against infection
Halophilic archaea are used to prescreen
antitumor drugs active on eukaryotic proteins
Thermophilic archaea are used in PCR

References
Prescott, Lansing M.; Harley, John P. and Klein,
Donald A.,2003. Microbiology, 5th edition. McGraw
Hill

www.euarch.blogspot.com
www.filebox.vt.edu
www.nature.com/ntmicro/journal/v5/n4
www.fib_tab/nrmicro1619_F3.html
www.microbewiki.kenyon.edu/