The outer surface of the archaebacterium Haloferax volcanii (formerly named Halobacterium volcanii) is covered with a hexagonally packed surface (S) layer. The gene coding for the S-layer protein was cloned and sequenced. The mature polypeptide is composed of 794 amino acids and is preceded by a typical signal sequence of 34 amino acid residues. A highly hydrophobic stretch of 20 amino acids at the C-terminal end probably serves as a transmembrane domain. Clusters of threonine residues are located adjacent to this membrane anchor. The S-layer protein is a glycoprotein containing both N- and O-glycosidic bonds. Glucosyl-(1----2)-galactose disaccharides are linked to threonine residues. The primary structure and the glycosylation pattern of the S-layer glycoproteins from Haloferax volcanii and from Halobacterium halobium were compared and found to exhibit distinct differences, despite the fact that three-dimensional reconstructions from electron micrographs revealed no structural differences at least to the 2.5-nm level attained so far (M. Kessel, I. Wildhaber, S. Cohe, and W. Baumeister, EMBO J. 7:1549-1554, 1988)
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