Arsenic resistance in the archaeon "Ferroplasma acidarmanus": new insights into the structure and evolution of the ars genes
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Arsenic resistance in the acidophilic iron-oxidizing archaeon "Ferroplasma acidarmanus" was investigated. F. acidarmanus is native to arsenic-rich environments, and culturing experiments confirm a high level of resistance to both arsenite and arsenate. Analyses of the complete genome revealed protein-encoding regions related to known arsenic-resistance genes. Genes encoding for ArsR (arsenite-sensitive regulator) and ArsB (arsenite-efflux pump) homologues were found located on a single operon. A gene encoding for an ArsA relative (anion-translocating ATPase) located apart from the arsRB operon was also identified. Arsenate-resistance genes encoding for proteins homologous to the arsenate reductase ArsC and the phosphate-specific transporter Pst were not found, indicating that additional unknown arsenic-resistance genes exist for arsenate tolerance. Phylogenetic analyses of ArsA-related proteins suggest separate evolutionary lines for these proteins and offer new insights into the formation of the arsA gene. The ArsB-homologous protein of F. acidarmanus had a high degree of similarity to known ArsB proteins. An evolutionary analysis of ArsB homologues across a number of species indicated a clear relationship in close agreement with 16S rRNA evolutionary lines. These results support a hypothesis of arsenic resistance developing early in the evolution of life.