New publication in Nature Microbiology


Independent interdomain transfers lead to the current distribution of sulfate reduction in Archaea

Evolution of sulfate metabolism in Archaea elucidated by international team including University of Vienna

Sulfate reduction is one of the most important processes in the global sulfur cycle and a dominant microbial metabolism in anaerobic environments such as marine sediments. Dissimilatory sulfate reduction (DSR) is an old process of microbial energy conservation, dating back to about 3.5 billion years ago, according to geological evidences. Although DSR is found to be present both prokaryotic domains, in Archaea, it’s taxonomic distribution is limited.

In an article published in Nature Microbiology, an international team of researchers led by Nikolay Chernyh of the Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology in Moscow, Filipa Sousa of the University of Vienna (and ITQB NOVA alumni) and Inês Cardoso Pereira from ITQB NOVA, report on their investigation of sulfate reduction in acidic hyperthermal terrestrial springs of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Using community profiling coupled with growth experiments, radioisotopes and proteomics, the team found that DSR in this environment is mainly due to a new archaeon ‘Candidatus Vulcanisaeta moutnovskia’. They show that this organism has all the required genes for DSR, whereas previous reports of DSR in other cultivated Thermoproteaceae could not be confirmed. Detailed phylogenetic studies suggest that ‘Candidatus V. moutnovskia’ acquired key genes for DSR directly from Bacteria, and that this metabolism arose independently in Vulcanisaeta and Archaeoglobus, the only two genera of Archaea where DSR is confirmed. The key genes acquired are the qmo genes which enables the organisms to conserve energy from sulfate reduction. Overall, the study shows that DSR is rare in Archaea and suggest that the dissimilatory reduction of sulfite is more ancient than that of sulfate.

The work involved researchers from the Russian Federal Research Center of Biotechnology and the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the University of Vienna, ITQB NOVA, Bangor University in the UK, the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología and the Institute of Catalysis of CSIC in Spain.

Original paper:

Nature Microbiology, DOI: 10.1038/s41564-020-0776-z

Dissimilatory sulfate reduction in the archaeon ‘Candidatus Vulcanisaeta moutnovskia’ sheds light on the evolution of sulfur metabolism

Nikolay A. Chernyh*, Sinje Neukirchen, Evgenii N. Frolov, Filipa L. Sousa*, Margarita L. Miroshnichenko, Alexander Y. Merkel, Nikolay V. Pimenov, Dimitry Y. Sorokin, Sergio Ciordia, María Carmen Mena, Manuel Ferrer, Peter N. Golyshin, Alexander V. Lebedinsky, Inês A. Cardoso Pereira* and Elizaveta A. Bonch-Osmolovskaya

Links: Nikolay Chernyh: Filipa Sousa:

Inês Cardoso Pereira: