Hyperthermophiles and the problem of DNA instability

Mol Microbiol. 1998 Jun;28(6):1043-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1998.00853.x.


Rates of chemical decomposition of DNA at the optimal growth temperatures of hyperthermophiles seem incongruent with the requirements of accurate genome replication. The peculiar physiology, ecology and phylogeny of hyperthermophiles combine to suggest that these prokaryotes have solved a molecular problem (spontaneous loss of native DNA structure) of a magnitude that well-studied microorganisms do not face. The failure of DNA base composition to correlate with optimal growth temperature among hyperthermophiles provides indirect evidence that other mechanisms maintain their chromosomal DNA in the duplex form. Studies in vitro indicate that DNA primary structure is more difficult to maintain at extremely high temperature than is secondary structure, yet hyperthermophiles exhibit only modest levels of spontaneous mutation. Radiation sensitivity studies also indicate that hyperthermophiles repair their DNA efficiently in vivo, and underlying mechanisms are beginning to be examined. Several enzymes of DNA metabolism from hyperthermophilic archaea exhibit unusual biochemical features that may ultimately prove relevant to DNA repair. However, genomic sequencing results suggest that many DNA repair genes of hyperthermophilic archaea may not be recognized because they are not sufficiently related to those of well-studied organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / growth & development
  • Archaea / metabolism
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Archaeal / chemistry
  • DNA, Archaeal / metabolism*
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • DNA, Archaeal
  • DNA, Bacterial