A key component found in an ancient anaerobic microorganism may serve as a sensor to detect potentially fatal oxygen, a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have found.
This helps researchers learn more about the function of these components, called iron-sulfur clusters, which occur in different parts of cells in all living creatures.
Daniel Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues report their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Lessner studies methanogens, ancient anaerobic microorganisms that live in extreme environments, including the human gut. In these organisms, he looks at RNA polymerase, a protein that “reads” DNA and produces RNA, which contains codes to build proteins. This process is found in most of the things we think of as “living.”
Methanogens interest space scientists because they can survive in extreme temperature conditions and in hostile environments. They interest health researchers because some species found in the human gut may influence digestion. They also interest energy producers because they are the only life form that produces methane gas. Because of this, it’s important to understand how these ancient microscopic creatures work.
The iron-sulfur clusters also are important because they exist in most life forms, including humans – in fact, you could not survive without your iron-sulfur clusters. “It is likely that life evolved at the interface of iron and sulfur minerals,” Lessner said. In some methanogens and other single-celled organisms, the protein RNA polymerase contains iron-sulfur clusters. However, these iron-sulfur clusters are not typically found in this protein, except in certain species, including methanogens.
Better understanding of the role of iron-sulfur clusters in this simple organism will help scientists understand and perhaps control production pathways in these microorganisms to produce methane gas as a biofuel.
The researchers decided to see if they could figure out why these organisms contain iron-sulfur clusters in their RNA polymerase. They found that without the clusters, a part of the protein changed its shape, which would in turn change its interactions with other parts of the protein. The clusters might serve to regulate the assembly of the parts of RNA polymerase.
The researchers believe that the iron-sulfur clusters serve as a sensor to shut down the creation of RNA from DNA in the presence of oxygen because oxygen reacts with iron-sulfur clusters to destroy them. This in turn would help the methanogen survive.
“This may be a way to conserve energy,” Lessner said. “Organisms may have retained these clusters to serve a similar role in diverse species so that organisms can respond to changes in the environment.“This is the first step in figuring out the protein properties and seeing how it works,” he said. Next the researchers will genetically modify the protein to change the number of iron-sulfur clusters and see what happens.
Melissa Lutz Blouin | Newswise Science News
Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles
19.10.2018 | University of Vienna
Less animal experiments on the horizon: Multi-organ chip awarded
19.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik IWS
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
02.10.2018 | Event News
19.10.2018 | Life Sciences
19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News