Methylation deficiency of chromatin proteins is a non-mutational and epigenetic-like trait in evolved lines of the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus

Tyler Johnson, Sophie Payne, Ryan Grove, Samuel McCarthy, Erin Oeltjen, Collin Mach, Jiri Adamec, Mark A. Wilson, Kevin Van Cott, Paul Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Archaea are a distinct and deeply rooted lineage that harbor eukaryotic-like mechanisms, including several that manage chromosome function. In previous work, the thermoacidophilic crenarchaeon, Sulfolobus solfataricus, was subjected to adaptive laboratory evolution to produce three strains, called SARC, with a new heritable trait of super acid resistance. These strains acquired heritable conserved transcriptomes, yet one strain contained no mutations. Homologous recombination without allele replacement at SARC acid resistance genes caused changes in both phenotype and expression of the targeted gene. As recombination displaces chromatin proteins, their involvement was predicted in the SARC trait. Native chromatin proteins are basic and highly abundant and undergo post-translational modification through lysine monomethylation. In this work, their modification states were investigated. In all SARC lines, two chromatin proteins, Cren7 and Sso7d, were consistently undermethylated, whereas other chromatin proteins were unaltered. This pattern was heritable in the absence of selection and independent of transient exposure to acid stress. The bulk of Sso7d was undermethylated at three contiguous N-terminal lysine residues but not at central or C-terminal regions. The N-terminal region formed a solvent-exposed patch located on the opposite side of the binding domain associated with the DNA minor groove. By analogy to eukaryotic histones, this patch could interact with other chromosomal proteins and be modulated by differential post-translational modification. Previous work established an epigenetic-like mechanism of adaptation and inheritance in S. solfataricus. The identification of heritable epigenetic marks in this work further supports the occurrence of an epigenetic process in archaea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7821-7832
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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