Bioengineering radioresistance by overproduction of RPA, a mammalian-type single-stranded DNA-binding protein, in a halophilic archaeon

Ram Karan, Priya Dassarma, Elizabeth Balcer-Kubiczek, Rueyhung Roc Weng, Chen Chung Liao, David R. Goodlett, Wailap Victor Ng, Shiladitya Dassarma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 is a wild-type extremophilic microbe that is naturally tolerant to high levels of ionizing radiation. Mutants of strain NRC-1 with even higher levels of resistance to ionizing radiation, named RAD, were previously isolated after selecting survival to extremely high doses of ionizing radiation. These RAD mutants displayed higher transcription levels for the rfa3 operon, coding two subunits of the RPA-like putative single-stranded binding protein, rfa3 and rfa8, and a third downstream gene, ral. In order to bioengineer cells with increased tolerance to ionizing radiation and further explore the genetic basis of the RAD phenotype, we placed the rfa3 operon under control of the gvpA promoter in a Halobacterium expression plasmid, pDRK1. When pDRK1 was introduced into the wild-type NRC-1 strain, overproduction of the Rfa3 and Rfa8 proteins was observed by Western blotting and proteomic analysis. The Halobacterium strains expressing Rfa3 and Rfa8 also displayed improved survival after exposure to ionizing radiation, similar to the RAD mutants, when compared to wild-type strain NRC-1. The Rfa3 and Rfa8 proteins co-purified by affinity chromatography on single-stranded DNA cellulose columns, confirming the ability of the proteins to bind to single-stranded DNA as well as their relative abundance in the wild-type, RAD mutants, and rfa3 operon overexpression strains. These results clearly establish that overexpression of haloarchaeal RPA promotes ionizing radiation resistance in Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 and that the Rfa3 and Rfa8 subunits bind single-stranded DNA. Bioengineering cells with increased levels of ionizing radiation resistance may have potential value in medical and environmental applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1747
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Archaea
  • DNA repair
  • Gene expression
  • Halophile


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