Raquel Quatrini, Francisco J. Ossandon and Douglas Rawlings
Over the last couple of decades there has been considerable progress in the identification and understanding of the mobile genetic elements that are exchanged between microbes in extremely acidic environments, and of the genes piggybacking on them. Numerous plasmid families, unique viruses of bizarre morphologies and lyfe cycles, as well as plasmid-virus chimeras, have been isolated from acidophiles and characterized to varying degrees. Growing evidence provided by omic-studies have shown that the mobile elements repertoire is not restricted to plasmids and viruses, but that a plethora of integrative elements ranging from miniature inverted repeat transposable elements to large integrative conjugative elements populate the genomes of acidophilic bacteria and archaea. This chapter reviews the diversity of elements that have been found to constitute the flexible genome of acidophiles. Special emphasis is put on the knowledge generated for Sulfolobus
(archaea) and species of the bacterial genera Acidithiobacillus
. Also, recent knowledge on the strategies used by acidophiles to contain deletereous exchanges while allowing innovation, and the emerging details of the molecular biology of these systems, are discussed. Major lacunae in our understanding of the mobilome of acidophilic prokaryotes and topics for further investigations are identified.