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2002 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  JUL 2001 – JUN 2002

Biochemistry of Archaea and Bacteria: Enzymes of Ancient Metabolic Pathways

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Progress has continued towards understanding the novel gamma-class carbonic anhydrase thought to have contributed to the metabolism of ancient thermophilic and autotrophic methanoarchaea. The active site of the enzyme from Methanosarcina thermophila has been characterized in an effort to understand the evolution of this class and the physiological function in the cell. Insights into the mechanism of proton transfer suggest a role for bicarbonate. A role for the active site Arg 59 in catalysis has been established. Parallel investigations to understand the beta-class carbonic anhydrase from the thermophilic and autotrophic archaeon Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum have also revealed features of the active site that contribute to understanding of the evolution of this class and the catalytic mechanism with applications to the physiological function. An active site aspartate residue has been implicated in proton transport, and an active site arginine in the carbon dioxide hydration step of catalysis. Finally, analysis of the genomic sequence of Methanosarcina acetivorans has provided a foundation for genomic and proteomic approaches to discover still other novel proteins and enzymes that further our understanding of how the methanogenic Archaea contributed to the origin and early evolution of life on earth. The results identify numerous open reading frames (ORFs) with postulated functions in ancient pathways. Over expression of these ORFs and characterization of the gene products are expected to identify new metabolic capabilities, possibly of ancient origin.

    James Ferry
    Project Investigator

    Yanhuai Ding

    Christie Brosius
    Doctoral Student

    Francisco Cruz
    Doctoral Student

    Caleb Bell III
    Undergraduate Student

    Objective 2.0
    Develop and test plausible pathways by which ancient counterparts of membrane systems, proteins and nucleic acids were synthesized from simpler precursors and assembled into protocells.

    Objective 4.0
    Expand and interpret the genomic database of a select group of key microorganisms in order to reveal the history and dynamics of evolution.

    Objective 6.0
    Define how ecophysiological processes structure microbial communities, influence their adaptation and evolution, and affect their detection on other planets.

    Objective 7.0
    Identify the environmental limits for life by examining biological adaptations to extremes in environmental conditions.

    Objective 8.0
    Search for evidence of ancient climates, extinct life and potential habitats for extant life on Mars.