Hunter Fausset, Rachel L. Spietz, Savannah Cox, Gwendolyn Cooper, Scott Spurzem, Monika Tokmina-Lukaszewska, Jennifer DuBois, Joan B. Broderick, Eric M. Shepard, Eric S. Boyd, Brian Bothner

A shift between mineral and nonmineral sources of iron and sulfur causes proteome-wide changes in Methanosarcina barkeri

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Cell Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Genetics
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Physiology

ABSTRACT Iron (Fe) and sulfur (S) are required elements for life, and changes in their availability can limit the ecological distribution and function of microorganisms. In anoxic environments, soluble Fe typically exists as ferrous iron [Fe(II)] and S as sulfide (HS ). These species exhibit a strong affinity that ultimately drives the formation of sedimentary pyrite (FeS 2 ). Recently, paradigm-shifting studies indicate that Fe and S in FeS 2 can be made bioavailable by methanogens through a reductive dissolution process. However, the impact of the utilization of FeS 2 , as opposed to canonical Fe and S sources, on the phenotype of cells is not fully understood. Here, shotgun proteomics was utilized to measure changes in the phenotype of Methanosarcina barkeri MS grown with FeS 2 , Fe(II)/HS , or Fe(II)/cysteine. Shotgun proteomics tracked 1,019 proteins overall, with 307 observed to change between growth conditions. Functional characterization and pathway analyses revealed these changes to be systemic and largely tangential to Fe/S metabolism. As a final step, the proteomics data were viewed with respect to previously collected transcriptomics data to deepen the analysis. Presented here is evidence that M. barkeri adopts distinct phenotypes to exploit specific sources of Fe and S in its environment. This is supported by observed protein abundance changes across broad categories of cellular biology. DNA adjacent metabolism, central carbon metabolism methanogenesis, metal trafficking, quorum sensing, and porphyrin biosynthesis pathways are all features in the phenotypic differentiation. Differences in trace metal availability attributed to complexation with HS , either as a component of the growth medium [Fe(II)/HS ] or generated through reduction of FeS 2 , were likely a major factor underpinning these phenotypic differences. IMPORTANCE The methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri holds great potential for industrial bio-mining and energy generation technologies. Much of the biochemistry of this microbe is poorly understood, and its characterization will provide a glimpse into biological processes that evolved close to life’s origin. The discovery of its ability to extract iron and sulfur from bulk, solid-phase minerals shifted a longstanding paradigm that these elements were inaccessible to biological systems. The full elucidation of this process has the potential to help scientists and engineers extract valuable metals from low-grade ore and mine waste generating energy in the form of methane while doing so.

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