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    STUDIA BIOLOGIA - Issue no. 1 / 2019  

  Abstract:   The intriguing phenomenon of lateral gene transfer mediated by cell fusion in halophilic archaea, also known as mating, has been recognized since the 1980s; however, the molecular mechanisms involved remain largely unknown. Within the Haloferax genus, both the Surface-layer (S-layer) protein and the glycans that decorate it, vary between species, which can potentially result in many different surface types, analogous to bacterial serotypes. This variation may mediate important phenotypes, such as sensitivity to different viruses as well as mating preferences. We have previously shown how differences in H. volcanii surface glycosylation influence cell fusion and how environmental and genetic perturbations to this process can dramatically affect fusion efficiency. These findings suggest that surface glycosylation may play a role in cellular recognition and within-species mating preferences in halophilic archaea, thereby affecting gene exchange and speciation processes. Our main objectives are to investigate the mating mechanism in haloarchaea and determine the effect of cell surface N-linked glycan composition in the genus Haloferax on cell fusion. To that end, we have recently established a new fluorescent marker-based protocol for rapid and more accurate quantification of mating efficiency that is independent of selectable genetic markers. Using both genetic and fluorescence-based approaches we will attempt to further establish the effect of S-layer glycan composition on the first step of mating, cell-cell recognition.

Keywords: glycosylation, halophilic archaea, horizontal gene transfer, mating, S-layer
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