Capillary Electrophoresis-Based Functional Genomics Screening to Discover Novel Archaeal DNA Modifying Enzymes

Zatopek, Kelly M., et al. “Capillary Electrophoresis-Based Functional Genomics Screening to Discover Novel Archaeal DNA Modifying Enzymes.” Applied and environmental microbiology 88.2 (2022): e02137-21.


It has been predicted that 30 to 80% of archaeal genomes remain annotated as hypothetical proteins with no assigned gene function. Further, many archaeal organisms are difficult to grow or are unculturable. To overcome these technical and experimental hurdles, we developed a high-throughput functional genomics screen that utilizes capillary electrophoresis (CE) to identify nucleic acid modifying enzymes based on activity rather than sequence homology. Here, we describe a functional genomics screening workflow to find DNA modifying enzyme activities encoded by the hyperthermophile Thermococcus kodakarensis (T. kodakarensis). Large DNA insert fosmid libraries representing an ∼5-fold average coverage of the T. kodakarensis genome were prepared in Escherichia coli. RNA-seq showed a high fraction (84%) of T. kodakarensis genes were transcribed in E. coli despite differences in promoter structure and translational machinery. Our high-throughput screening workflow used fluorescently labeled DNA substrates directly in heat-treated lysates of fosmid clones with capillary electrophoresis detection of reaction products. Using this method, we identified both a new DNA endonuclease activity for a previously described RNA endonuclease (Nob1) and a novel AP lyase DNA repair enzyme family (termed ‘TK0353’) that is found only in a small subset of Thermococcales. The screening methodology described provides a fast and efficient way to explore the T. kodakarensis genome for a variety of nucleic acid modifying activities and may have implications for similar exploration of enzymes and pathways that underlie core cellular processes in other Archaea.