DNA as a phosphate storage polymer and the alternative advantages of polyploidy for growth or survival

Karolin Zerulla, Scott Chimileski, Daniela Nather, Uri Gophna, R. Thane Papke, Jörg Soppa

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64 Scopus citations


Haloferax volcanii uses extracellular DNA as a source for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. However, it can also grow to a limited extend in the absence of added phosphorous, indicating that it contains an intracellular phosphate storage molecule. As Hfx. volcanii is polyploid, it was investigated whether DNA might be used as storage polymer, in addition to its role as genetic material. It could be verified that during phosphate starvation cells multiply by distributing as well as by degrading their chromosomes. In contrast, the number of ribosomes stayed constant, revealing that ribosomes are distributed to descendant cells, but not degraded. These results suggest that the phosphate of phosphate-containing biomolecules (other than DNA and RNA) originates from that stored in DNA, not in rRNA. Adding phosphate to chromosome depleted cells rapidly restores polyploidy. Quantification of desiccation survival of cells with different ploidy levels showed that under phosphate starvation Hfx. volcanii diminishes genetic advantages of polyploidy in favor of cell multiplication. The consequences of the usage of genomic DNA as phosphate storage polymer are discussed as well as the hypothesis that DNA might have initially evolved in evolution as a storage polymer, and the various genetic benefits evolved later.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere94819
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 14 Apr 2014


FundersFunder number
Massachusetts Department of Fish and GameSo264/16
National Science Foundation0830024, 0919290


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