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Life in deadly conditions

ted organisms - for example, Halobacterium salinarum, the "house pet" of Dieter Oesterhelt's department. In contrast to other salt-tolerant organisms, halophile archaea have an extremely high salt concentration inside of their cells. These levels of salt concentration cannot usually support proteins, the critical functional components of living cells. But the greater portion of amino-acid building blocks in the proteomes of halophile archaea make it possible for the proteins to remain stabile, even in high salt concentrations. To survive among the extremely high pH-values, Natronomonas pharaonis also has a moderately increased pH-value inside its cells.

The cellular components that are in direct contact with the brine around them need their own adaptation strategies. These components are the cell membrane and the proteins that have to function outside the cell. Michaela Falb discovered, using theoretical analysis as part of her doctoral thesis, that Natronomonas pharaonis has a particularly large number of proteins attached to lipid molecules, anchoring it to the cell membrane.

Important functions of the energy metabolism - for example, the respiratory chain - are embedded in the cell membrane and have to be adapted to the adverse external conditions. Despite a detailed bioinformatic analysis of the genome, it was still unclear whether Natronomonas pharaonis has a respiratory chain and which ions would play a role in its functioning. The bioinformatics expert Michaela Falb and biochemist J?Tittor thus designed additional experimental studies which showed that Natronomonas pharaonis does indeed have a functioning respiratory chain, which amazingly, and in contrast to other organisms that grow in alkaline conditions, functions with a "normal" proton. The Max Planck researchers could thus refute the paradigm, dominant until now, that organisms in alkaline conditions have to switch to other ions (for example, sodium, Na+).

A higher pH-value leads
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Source:Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


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