Trehalose/2-sulfotrehalose biosynthesis and glycine-betaine uptake are widely spread mechanisms for osmoadaptation in the Halobacteriales

Noha H. Youssef, Kristen N. Savage-Ashlock, Alexandra L. McCully, Brandon Luedtke, Edward I. Shaw, Wouter D. Hoff, Mostafa S. Elshahed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


We investigated the mechanisms of osmoadaptation in the order Halobacteriales, with special emphasis on Haladaptatus paucihalophilus, known for its ability to survive in low salinities. H. paucihalophilus genome contained genes for trehalose synthesis (trehalose-6-phosphate synthase/trehalose-6-phosphatase (OtsAB pathway) and trehalose glycosyl-transferring synthase pathway), as well as for glycine betaine uptake (BCCT family of secondary transporters and QAT family of ABC transporters). H. paucihalophilus cells synthesized and accumulated ∼1.97-3.72 μmol per mg protein of trehalose in a defined medium, with its levels decreasing with increasing salinities. When exogenously supplied, glycine betaine accumulated intracellularly with its levels increasing at higher salinities. RT-PCR analysis strongly suggested that H. paucihalophilus utilizes the OtsAB pathway for trehalose synthesis. Out of 83 Halobacteriales genomes publicly available, genes encoding the OtsAB pathway and glycine betaine BCCT family transporters were identified in 38 and 60 genomes, respectively. Trehalose (or its sulfonated derivative) production and glycine betaine uptake, or lack thereof, were experimentally verified in 17 different Halobacteriales species. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that trehalose synthesis is an ancestral trait within the Halobacteriales, with its absence in specific lineages reflecting the occurrence of gene loss events during Halobacteriales evolution. Analysis of multiple culture-independent survey data sets demonstrated the preference of trehalose-producing genera to saline and low salinity habitats, and the dominance of genera lacking trehalose production capabilities in permanently hypersaline habitats. This study demonstrates that, contrary to current assumptions, compatible solutes production and uptake represent a common mechanism of osmoadaptation within the Halobacteriales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-649
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Halobacteriales
  • osmoadaptation
  • trehalose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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