Archaea are best known in their capacities as extremophiles, i.e. micro-organisms able to thrive in some of the most drastic environments on Earth. The protein-based surface layer that envelopes many archaeal strains must thus correctly assemble and maintain its structural integrity in the face of the physical challenges associated with, for instance, life in high salinity, at elevated temperatures or in acidic surroundings. Study of archaeal surface-layer (glyco)proteins has thus offered insight into the strategies employed by these proteins to survive direct contact with extreme environments, yet has also served to elucidate other aspects of archaeal protein biosynthesis, including glycosylation, lipid modification and protein export. In this mini-review, recent advances in the study of archaeal surface-layer (glyco)proteins are discussed.
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