Extracellular DNA metabolism in Haloferax volcanii

Scott Chimileski, Kunal Dolas, Adit Naor, Uri Gophna, R. Thane Papke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Extracellular DNA is found in all environments and is a dynamic component of the microbial ecosystem. Microbial cells produce and interact with extracellular DNA through many endogenous mechanisms. Extracellular DNA is processed and internalized for use as genetic information and as a major source of macronutrients, and plays several key roles within prokaryotic biofilms. Hypersaline sites contain some of the highest extracellular DNA concentrations measured in nature-a potential rich source of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus for halophilic microorganisms. We conducted DNA growth studies for the halophilic archaeon Haloferax volcanii DS2 and show that this model Halobacteriales strain is capable of using exogenous double-stranded DNA as a nutrient. Further experiments with varying medium composition, DNA concentration, and DNA types revealed that DNA is utilized primarily as a phosphorus source, that growth on DNA is concentration-dependent, and that DNA isolated from different sources is metabolized selectively, with a bias against highly divergent methylated DNA. Additionally, fluorescence microscopy showed that labeled DNA co-localized with H. volcanii cells. The gene Hvo_1477 was also identified using a comparative genomic approach as a factor likely to be involved in DNA processing at the cell surface, and deletion of Hvo_1477 created a strain deficient in the ability to grow on extracellular DNA. Widespread distribution of Hvo_1477 homologs in archaea suggests metabolism of extracellular DNA may be of broad ecological and physiological relevance in this domain of life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2014


FundersFunder number
National Science Foundation0919290, NNX12AD70G


    • Archaea
    • Archaeal genetics
    • DNA metabolism
    • Extracellular DNA
    • Halobacteria
    • Haloferax volcanii
    • Halophiles
    • Natural competence


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