The thermoacidophilic Crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus is a model organism for archaeal adaptation to extreme environments and renowned for its ability to degrade a broad variety of substrates. It has been well characterised concerning the utilisation of numerous carbohydrates as carbon source. However, its amino acid metabolism, especially the degradation of single amino acids, is not as well understood. In this work, we performed metabolic modelling as well as metabolome, transcriptome and proteome analysis on cells grown on caseinhydrolysate as carbon source in order to draw a comprehensive picture of amino acid metabolism in S. solfataricus P2. We found that 10 out of 16 detectable amino acids are imported from the growth medium. Overall, uptake of glutamate, methionine, leucine, phenylalanine and isoleucine was the highest of all observed amino acids. Our simulations predict an incomplete degradation of leucine and tyrosine to organic acids, and in accordance with this, we detected the export of branched-chain and aromatic organic acids as well as amino acids, ammonium and trehalose into the culture supernatants. The branched-chain amino acids as well as phenylalanine and tyrosine are degraded to organic acids via oxidative Stickland reactions. Such reactions are known for prokaryotes capable of anaerobic growth, but so far have never been observed in an obligate aerobe. Also, 3-methyl-2-butenoate and 2-methyl-2-butenoate are for the first time found as products of modified Stickland reactions for the degradation of branched-chain amino acids. This work presents the first detailed description of branched-chain and aromatic amino acid catabolism in S. solfataricus.
Sulfolobus solfataricus is a thermoacidophilic model organism for archaeal adaptation to extreme environments. We examined the organism's amino acid catabolism using metabolic modelling, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics analysis. For the first time in an obligate aerobe, we observed the incomplete degradation of branched-chain and aromatic amino acids to organic acids via oxidative Stickland reactions and propose the relevant enzyme candidates.