Metagenomic analyses have advanced our understanding of ecological microbial diversity, but to what extent can metagenomic data be used to predict the metabolic capacity of difficult-to-study organisms and their abiotic environmental interactions? We tackle this question, using a comparative genomic approach, by considering the molecular basis of aerobiosis within archaea. Lipoylation, the covalent attachment of lipoic acid to 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase multienzyme complexes (OADHCs), is essential for metabolism in aerobic bacteria and eukarya. Lipoylation is catalysed either by lipoate protein ligase (LplA), which in archaea is typically encoded by two genes (LplA-N and LplA-C), or by a lipoyl(octanoyl) transferase (LipB or LipM) plus a lipoic acid synthetase (LipA). Does the genomic presence of lipoylation and OADHC genes across archaea from diverse habitats correlate with aerobiosis? First, analyses of 11,826 biotin protein ligase (BPL)-LplA-LipB transferase family members and 147 archaeal genomes identified 85 species with lipoylation capabilities and provided support for multiple ancestral acquisitions of lipoylation pathways during archaeal evolution. Second, with the exception of the Sulfolobales order, the majority of species possessing lipoylation systems exclusively retain LplA, or either LipB or LipM, consistent with archaeal genome streamlining. Third, obligate anaerobic archaea display widespread loss of lipoylation and OADHC genes. Conversely, a high level of correspondence is observed between aerobiosis and the presence of LplA/LipB/LipM, LipA and OADHC E2, consistent with the role of lipoylation in aerobic metabolism. This correspondence between OADHC lipoylation capacity and aerobiosis indicates that genomic pathway profiling in archaea is informative and that well characterized pathways may be predictive in relation to abiotic conditions in difficult-to-study extremophiles. Given the highly variable retention of gene repertoires across the archaea, the extension of comparative genomic pathway profiling to broader metabolic and homeostasis networks should be useful in revealing characteristics from metagenomic datasets related to adaptations to diverse environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)