Halophilic archaea from the genus Halorubrum possess two extraordinarily diverged archaellin genes, flaB1 and flaB2. To clarify roles for each archaellin, we compared two natural Halorubrum lacusprofundi strains: One of them contains both archaellin genes, and the other has the flaB2 gene only. Both strains synthesize functional archaella; however, the strain, where both archaellins are present, is more motile. In addition, we expressed these archaellins in a Haloferax volcanii strain from which the endogenous archaellin genes were deleted. Three Hfx. volcanii strains expressing Hrr. lacusprofundi archaellins produced functional filaments consisting of only one (FlaB1 or FlaB2) or both (FlaB1/FlaB2) archaellins. All three strains were motile, although there were profound differences in the efficiency of motility. Both native and recombinant FlaB1/FlaB2 filaments have greater thermal stability and resistance to low salinity stress than single-component filaments. Functional supercoiled Hrr. lacusprofundi archaella can be composed of either single archaellin: FlaB2 or FlaB1; however, the two divergent archaellin subunits provide additional stabilization to the archaellum structure and thus adaptation to a wider range of external conditions. Comparative genomic analysis suggests that the described combination of divergent archaellins is not restricted to Hrr. lacusprofundi, but is occurring also in organisms from other haloarchaeal genera.
Keywords: Haloferax; Halorubrum; archaea; archaellin; archaellum; motility.
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