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Novel acid resistance genes from the metagenome of the Tinto River, an extremely acidic environment


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Microorganisms that thrive in acidic environments are endowed with specialized molecular mechanisms to survive under this extremely harsh condition. In this work, we performed functional screening of six metagenomic libraries from planktonic and rhizosphere microbial communities of the Tinto River, an extremely acidic environment, to identify genes involved in acid resistance. This approach has revealed 15 different genes conferring acid resistance to Escherichia coli, most of which encoding putative proteins of unknown function or previously described proteins not known to be related to acid resistance. Moreover, we were able to assign function to one unknown and three hypothetical proteins. Among the recovered genes were the ClpXP protease, the transcriptional repressor LexA and nucleic acid-binding proteins such as an RNA-binding protein, HU and Dps. Furthermore, nine of the retrieved genes were cloned and expressed in Pseudomonas putida and Bacillus subtilis and, remarkably, most of them were able to expand the capability of these bacteria to survive under severe acid stress. From this set of genes, four presented a broad-host range as they enhance the acid resistance of the three different organisms tested. These results expand our knowledge about the different strategies used by microorganisms to survive under extremely acid conditions.