Abstract

All analyzed haloarachea are polyploid. In addition, haloarchaea contain more than one type of chromosome, and thus the gene dosage can be regulated independently on different replicons. Haloarchaea and several additional archaea have more than one replication origin on their major chromosome, in stark contrast with bacteria, which have a single replication origin. Two of these replication origins of Haloferax volcanii have been studied in detail and turned out to have very different properties. The chromosome copy number appears to be regulated in response to growth phases and environmental factors. Archaea typically contain about two Origin Recognition Complex (ORC) proteins, which are homologous to eukaryotic ORC proteins. However, haloarchaea are the only archaeal group that contains a multitude of ORC proteins. All 16 ORC protein paralogs from H. volcanii are involved in chromosome copy number regulation. Polyploidy has many evolutionary advantages for haloarchaea, e.g. a high resistance to desiccation, survival over geological times, and the relaxation of cell cycle-specific replication control. A further advantage is the ability to grow in the absence of external phosphate while using the many genome copies as internal phosphate storage polymers. Very efficient gene conversion operates in haloarchaea and results in the unification of genome copies. Taken together, haloarchaea are excellent models to study many aspects of genome biology in prokaryotes, exhibiting properties that have not been found in bacteria.

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