Extremely acidic proteomes and metabolic flexibility in bacteria and highly diversified archaea thriving in geothermal chaotropic brines

Gutierrez-Preciado et al. (2024).
Names (9)
Few described archaeal, and fewer bacterial, lineages thrive at salt-saturating conditions, such as solar saltern crystallizers (salinity above 30%-w/v). They accumulate molar K+ cytoplasmic concentrations to maintain osmotic balance ("salt-in" strategy), and have proteins adaptively enriched in negatively charged, acidic amino acids. Here, we analyzed metagenomes and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from geothermally influenced hypersaline ecosystems with increasing chaotropicity in the Danakil Depression. Normalized abundances of universal single-copy genes confirmed that haloarchaea and Nanohaloarchaeota encompass 99% of microbial communities in the near life-limiting conditions of the Western-Canyon Lakes (WCLs). Danakil metagenome- and MAG-inferred proteomes, compared to those of freshwater, seawater and solar saltern ponds up to saturation (6-14-32% salinity), showed that WCL archaea encode the most acidic proteomes ever observed (median protein isoelectric points ≤4.4). We identified previously undescribed Halobacteria families as well as an Aenigmatarchaeota family and a bacterial phylum independently adapted to extreme halophily. Despite phylum-level diversity decreasing with increasing salinity-chaotropicity, and unlike in solar salterns, adapted archaea exceedingly diversified in Danakil ecosystems, challenging the notion of decreasing diversity under extreme conditions. Metabolic flexibility to utilize multiple energy and carbon resources generated by local hydrothermalism along feast-and-famine strategies seemingly shape microbial diversity in these ecosystems near life limits.
Publication date