Frauke Baymann, Barbara Schoepp-Cothenet, Evelyne Lebrun, Robert van Lis and Wolfgang Nitschke
BIP/UMR7281, FR3479, CNRS/AMU, Marseille, France.
Rieske/cytochrome b (Rieske/cytb) complexes are proton pumping quinol oxidases that are present in most bacteria and Archaea. The phylogeny of their subunits follows closely the 16S-rRNA phylogeny, indicating that chemiosmotic coupling was already present in the last universal common ancestor of Archaea and bacteria. Haloarchaea are the only organisms found so far that acquired Rieske/cytb complexes via interdomain lateral gene transfer. They encode two Rieske/cytb complexes in their genomes; one of them is found in genetic context with nitrate reductase genes and has its closest relatives among Actinobacteria and the Thermus/Deinococcus group. It is likely to function in nitrate respiration. The second Rieske/cytb complex of Haloarchaea features a split cytochrome b sequence as do Cyanobacteria, chloroplasts, Heliobacteria, and Bacilli. It seems that Haloarchaea acquired this complex from an ancestor of the above-mentioned phyla. Its involvement in the bioenergetic reaction chains of Haloarchaea is unknown. We present arguments in favor of the hypothesis that the ancestor of Haloarchaea, which relied on a highly specialized bioenergetic metabolism, that is, methanogenesis, and was devoid of quinones and most enzymes of anaerobic or aerobic bioenergetic reaction chains, integrated laterally transferred genes into its genome to respond to a change in environmental conditions that made methanogenesis unfavorable.