National Science Foundation (DEB1134877) and the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DE-SC0006654).
Biological features can be inferred, based on genomic data, for many microbial lineages that remain uncultured. However, cultivation is important for characterizing an organism’s physiology and testing its genome-encoded potential. Here we use single-cell genomics to infer cultivation conditions for the isolation of an ectosymbiotic Nanoarchaeota (‘Nanopusillus acidilobi’) and its host (Acidilobus, a crenarchaeote) from a terrestrial geothermal environment. The cells of ‘Nanopusillus’ are among the smallest known cellular organisms (100–300 nm). They appear to have a complete genetic information processing machinery, but lack almost all primary biosynthetic functions as well as respiration and ATP synthesis. Genomic and proteomic comparison with its distant relative, the marine Nanoarchaeum equitans illustrate an ancient, common evolutionary history of adaptation of the Nanoarchaeota to ectosymbiosis, so far unique among the Archaea.
Wurch, L. et al. Genomics-informed isolation and characterization of a symbiotic Nanoarchaeota system from a terrestrial geothermal environment. Nat. Commun. 7:12115 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12115 (2016).