Genetic and structural diversity of prokaryotic ice-binding proteins from the central Arctic Ocean

Johanna C. Winder, William Boulton, Asaf Salamov, Sarah Lena Eggers, Katja Metfies, Vincent Moulton, Thomas Mock

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Ice-binding proteins (IBPs) are a group of ecologically and biotechnologically relevant enzymes produced by psychrophilic organisms. Although putative IBPs containing the domain of unknown function (DUF) 3494 have been identified in many taxa of polar microbes, our knowledge of their genetic and structural diversity in natural microbial communities is limited. Here, we used samples from sea ice and sea water collected in the central Arctic Ocean as part of the MOSAiC expedition for metagenome sequencing and the subsequent analyses of metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs). By linking structurally diverse IBPs to particular environments and potential functions, we reveal that IBP sequences are enriched in interior ice, have diverse genomic contexts and cluster taxonomically. Their diverse protein structures may be a consequence of domain shuffling, leading to variable combinations of protein domains in IBPs and probably reflecting the functional versatility required to thrive in the extreme and variable environment of the central Arctic Ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number363
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


  • Arctic Ocean
  • domain shuffling
  • DUF3494
  • ice-binding proteins
  • MAGs
  • metagenomics
  • MOSAiC expedition
  • polar genomics

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