Proteolysis in hyperthermophilic microorganisms
Proteases are found in every cell, where they recognize and break down unneeded or abnormal polypeptides or peptide-based nutrients within or outside the cell. Genome sequence data can be used to compare proteolytic enzyme inventories of different organisms as they relate to physiological needs for protein modification and hydrolysis. In this review, we exploit genome sequence data to compare hyperthermophilic microorganisms from the euryarchaeotal genus Pyrococcus, the crenarchaeote Sulfolobus solfataricus, and the bacterium Thermotoga maritima. An overview of the proteases in these organisms is given based on those proteases that have been characterized and on putative proteases that have been identified from genomic sequences, but have yet to be characterized. The analysis revealed both similarities and differences in the mechanisms utilized for proteolysis by each of these hyperthermophiles and indicated how these mechanisms relate to proteolysis in less thermophilic cells and organisms.