Expression of two gas vacuole protein genes in Halobacterium halobium and other related species

Mary C Horne, Felicitas Pfeifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The archaebacterium Halobacterium halobium contains two genes encoding gas vacuole proteins (vac). One resides on a large naturally occurring plasmid and encodes a protein of 76 amino acids (p-vac), while the other is a chromosomal gene that encodes a highly similar protein of 79 amino acids (c-vac). Northern analysis determined the c-vac and p-vac mRNA to be approximately 340 nucleotides in length, and S1 mapping of both transcripts indicated that the 5′ terminus for each starts at the same relative nucleotide. Three other Halobacterium species producing gas vacuoles were investigated, H. spec. GN101, YC819-9, and SB3. All three contain only a chromosomal c-vac gene, and the 5′ terminus of the 340 nucleotide mRNA starts at the same nucleotide as found for H. halobium. The c-vac gene region of H. spec. GN101 contains nine nucleotide exchanges, three of which occur in the coding region with no effect on the amino acid sequence. In contrast, the c-vac gene of H. spec. SB3 has an identical nucleotide sequence to the H. halobium c-vac gene. Gas vacuole production in each of these species was monitored during culture growth by phase contrast microscopy, and the vac mRNA level was determined for each time point. H. halobium p-vac deletion mutants, as well as the halobacterial species GN101 and YC819-9, start to synthesize gas vacuoles in early stationary growth phase with a maximal mRNA content in stationary phase. In contrast, H. halobium wild-type synthesizes gas vacuoles exclusively due to p-vac gene expression with a maximal mRNA level during logarithmic growth, and transcripts of the c-vac gene were not detectable. Cells of H. spec. SB3 infrequently developed gas vacuoles, and only at a very low level in late stationary growth phase which was paralleled by a very low level of c-vac mRNA. The data imply that: (1) p-vac gene expression might directly or indirectly repress c-vac gene transcription; and (2) despite the identical DNA sequences in the c-vac gene promoter and in a further 350 bp of the upstream region, this gene is expressed at a different level in H. spec. SB3 as compared to H. halobium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-444
Number of pages8
JournalMGG Molecular & General Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaebacteria
  • Gas vacuoles
  • Gene expression
  • Plasmid instability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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