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1.  Single amino acid changes that alter the DNA sequence specificity of the DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase (Dam) of bacteriophage T4. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1989;17(20):8149-8157.
Bacteriophage T4 codes for a DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase (Dam) which recognizes primarily the sequence GATC in both cytosine- and hydroxymethylcytosine-containing DNA. Hypermethylating mutants, damh, exhibit a relaxation in sequence specificity, that is, they are readily able to methylate non-canonical sites. We have determined that the damh mutation produces a single amino acid change (Pro126 to Ser126) in a region of homology (III) shared by three DNA-adenine methyltransferases; viz, T4 Dam, Escherichia coli Dam, and the DpnII modification enzyme of Streptococcus pneumoniae. We also describe another mutant, damc, which methylates GATC in cytosine-containing DNA, but not in hydroxymethylcytosine-containing DNA. This mutation also alters a single amino acid (Phe127 to Val127). These results implicate homology region III as a domain involved in DNA sequence recognition. The effect of several different amino acids at residue 126 was examined by creating a polypeptide chain terminating codon at that position and comparing the methylation capability of partially purified enzymes produced in the presence of various suppressors. No enzyme activity is detected when phenylalanine, glutamic acid, or histidine is inserted at position 126. However, insertion of alanine, cysteine, or glycine at residue 126 produces enzymatic activity similar to Damh.
PMCID: PMC334954  PMID: 2510127
2.  The bacteriophage T2 and T4 DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase (Dam) sequence specificities are not identical. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1989;17(22):9101-9112.
Bacteriophages T2 and T4 encode DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferases (Dam) which differ from each other by only three amino acids. The canonical recognition sequence for these enzymes in both cytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine-containing DNA is GATC; at a lower efficiency they also recognize some non-canonical sites in sequences derived from GAY (where Y is cytosine or thymine). We found that T4 Dam fails to methylate certain GATA and GATT sequences which are methylated by T2 Dam. This indicates that T2 Dam and T4 Dam do not have identical sequence specificities. We analyzed DNA sequence data files obtained from GenBank, containing about 30% of the T4 genome, to estimate the overall frequency of occurrence of GATC, as well as non-canonical sites derived from GAY. The observed N6methyladenine (m6A) content of T4 DNA, methylated exclusively at GATC (by Escherichia coli Dam), was found to be in good agreement with this estimate. Although GATC is fully methylated in virion DNA, only a small percentage of the non-canonical sequences are methylated.
PMCID: PMC335117  PMID: 2685754
3.  Characterization of a dam Mutant of Serratia marcescens and Nucleotide Sequence of the dam Region 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(13):3880-3885.
The DNA of Serratia marcescens has N6-adenine methylation in GATC sequences. Among 2-aminopurine-sensitive mutants isolated from S. marcescens Sr41, one was identified which lacked GATC methylation. The mutant showed up to 30-fold increased spontaneous mutability and enhanced mutability after treatment with 2-aminopurine, ethyl methanesulfonate, or UV light. The gene (dam) coding for the adenine methyltransferase (Dam enzyme) of S. marcescens was identified on a gene bank plasmid which alleviated the 2-aminopurine sensitivity and the higher mutability of a dam-13::Tn9 mutant of Escherichia coli. Nucleotide sequencing revealed that the deduced amino acid sequence of Dam (270 amino acids; molecular mass, 31.3 kDa) has 72% identity to the Dam enzyme of E. coli. The dam gene is located between flanking genes which are similar to those found to the sides of the E. coli dam gene. The results of complementation studies indicated that like Dam of E. coli and unlike Dam of Vibrio cholerae, the Dam enzyme of S. marcescens plays an important role in mutation avoidance by allowing the mismatch repair enzymes to discriminate between the parental and newly synthesized strands during correction of replication errors.
PMCID: PMC93874  PMID: 10383952
4.  Direct role of the Escherichia coli Dam DNA methyltransferase in methylation-directed mismatch repair. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1986;165(3):896-900.
The T4 dam+ gene has been cloned (S. L. Schlagman and S. Hattman, Gene 22:139-156, 1983) and transferred into an Escherichia coli dam-host. In this host, the T4 Dam DNA methyltransferase methylates mainly, if not exclusively, the sequence 5'-GATC-3'; this sequence specificity is the same as that of the E. coli Dam enzyme. Expression of the cloned T4 dam+ gene suppresses almost all the phenotypic traits associated with E. coli dam mutants, with the exception of hypermutability. In wild-type hosts, 20- to 500-fold overproduction of the E. coli Dam methylase by plasmids containing the cloned E. coli dam+ gene results in a hypermutability phenotype (G.E. Herman and P. Modrich, J. Bacteriol. 145:644-646, 1981; M.G. Marinus, A. Poteete, and J.A. Arraj, Gene 28:123-125, 1984). In contrast, the same high level of T4 Dam methylase activity, produced by plasmids containing the cloned T4 dam+ gene, does not result in hypermutability. To account for these results we propose that the E. coli Dam methylase may be directly involved in the process of methylation-instructed mismatch repair and that the T4 Dam methylase is unable to substitute for the E. coli enzyme.
PMCID: PMC214513  PMID: 3512529
5.  The isolation and characterization of the Escherichia coli DNA adenine methylase (dam) gene. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1983;11(3):837-851.
The E. coli dam (DNA adenine methylase) enzyme is known to methylate the sequence GATC. A general method for cloning sequence-specific DNA methylase genes was used to isolate the dam gene on a 1.14 kb fragment, inserted in the plasmid vector pBR322. Subsequent restriction mapping and subcloning experiments established a set of approximate boundaries of the gene. The nucleotide sequence of the dam gene was determined, and analysis of that sequence revealed a unique open reading frame which corresponded in length to that necessary to code for a protein the size of dam. Amino acid composition derived from this sequence corresponds closely to the amino acid composition of the purified dam protein. Enzymatic and DNA:DNA hybridization methods were used to investigate the possible presence of dam genes in a variety of prokaryotic organisms.
PMCID: PMC325756  PMID: 6300769
6.  Comparative studies of the phage T2 and T4 DNA (N6-adenine)methyltransferases: amino acid changes that affect catalytic activity. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(10):3239-3243.
The bacteriophage T2 and T4 dam genes code for a DNA (N6-adenine)methyltransferase (MTase). Nonglucosylated, hydroxymethylcytosine-containing T2gt- virion DNA has a higher level of methylation than T4gt- virion DNA does. To investigate the basis for this difference, we compared the intracellular enzyme levels following phage infection as well as the in vitro intrinsic methylation capabilities of purified T2 and T4 Dam MTases. Results from Western blotting (immunoblotting) showed that the same amounts of MTase protein were produced after infection with T2 and T4. Kinetic analyses with purified homogeneous enzymes showed that the two MTases had similar Km values for the methyl donor, S-adenosyl-L-methionine, and for substrate DNA. In contrast, they had different k(cat) values (twofold higher for T2 Dam MTase). We suggest that this difference can account for the ability of T2 Dam to methylate viral DNA in vivo to a higher level than does T4 Dam. Since the T2 and T4 MTases differ at only three amino acid residues (at positions 20 [T4, Ser; T2, Pro], 26 [T4, Asn; T2, Asp], and 188 [T4, Asp; T2, Glu]), we have produced hybrid proteins to determine which residue(s) is responsible for increased catalytic activity. The results of these analyses showed that the residues at positions 20 and 26 are responsible for the different k(cat) values of the two MTases for both canonical and noncanonical sites. Moreover, a single substitution of either residue 20 or 26 was sufficient to increase the k(cat) of T4 Dam.
PMCID: PMC179102  PMID: 9150219
7.  DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) controls the expression of the cytotoxic enterotoxin (act) gene of Aeromonas hydrophila via tRNA modifying enzyme-glucose-inhibited division protein (GidA) 
Gene  2012;498(2):280-287.
Aeromonas hydrophila is both a human and animal pathogen, and the cytotoxic enterotoxin (Act) is a crucial virulence factor of this bacterium because of its associated hemolytic, cytotoxic, and enterotoxic activities. Previously, to define the role of some regulatory genes in modulating Act production, we showed that deletion of a glucose-inhibited division gene (gidA) encoding tRNA methylase reduced Act levels, while overproduction of DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) led to a concomitant increase in Act-associated biological activities of a diarrheal isolate SSU of A. hydrophila. Importantly, there are multiple GATC binding sites for Dam within an upstream sequence of the gidA gene and one such target site in the act gene upstream region. We showed the dam gene to be essential for the viability of A. hydrophila SSU, and, therefore, to better understand the interaction of the encoding genes, Dam and GidA, in act gene regulation, we constructed a gidA in-frame deletion mutant of Escherichia coli GM28 (dam+) and GM33 (Δdam) strains. We then tested the expressional activity of the act and gidA genes by using a promoterless pGlow-TOPO vector containing a reporter green fluorescent protein (GFP). Our data indicated that in GidA+ strains of E. coli, constitutive methylation of the GATC site(s) by Dam negatively regulated act and gidA gene expression as measured by GFP production. However, in the ΔgidA strains, irrespective of the presence or absence of constitutively active Dam, we did not observe any alteration in the expression of the act gene signifying the role of GidA in positively regulating Act production. To determine the exact mechanism of how Dam and GidA influence Act, a real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) assay was performed. The analysis indicated an increase in gidA and act gene expression in the A. hydrophila Dam-overproducing strain, and these data matched with Act production in the E. coli GM28 strain. Thus, the extent of DNA methylation caused by constitutive versus overproduction of Dam, as well as possible conformation of DNA influence the expression of act and gidA genes in A. hydrophila SSU. Our results indicate that the act gene is under the control of both Dam and GidA modification methylases, and Dam regulates Act production via GidA.
PMCID: PMC3613146  PMID: 22391092
GATC Dam target sites; Promoter activity; tRNA uridine 5 carboxymethylaminomethyl; modification enzyme
8.  Dam methyltransferase sites located within the loop region of the oligopurine-oligopyrimidine sequences capable of forming H-DNA are undermethylated in vivo. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1990;18(3):605-611.
Several derivatives of pUC18 plasmid were constructed that contained oligopurine-oligopyrimidine (pur-pyr) motifs surrounded by Dam methylation sites. Inserts of two of the molecules (pPP1 and pPP2) were able to adopt the triple-stranded conformation in vitro and show in vivo a remarkable undermethylation of specific sites when grown in JM105 dam+ strain. Mapping experiments revealed that undermethylated GATC sequences were located exclusively within the single-stranded loop region of the sequence involved in H-DNA formation. Control molecules which either contained the pur-pyr tracts (pPPK and pKK42) or not (pUC18) and were not able to form the triple-stranded conformation were found to be normally methylated by the dam gene product in vivo. Location of GATC within the triplex forming sequence seems to be a prerequisite for achieving its in vivo undermethylation. E.coli host factors are involved in the observed phenomenon. This has been deduced from the fact that the undermethylated state of pPP1 and pPP2 does not depend on the phase of growth of host cells and is steadily maintained up to 50 hours, whereas the kinetics of Dam methylation in vitro of sites located within the triplex loop does not differ substantially from the kinetics of methylation of other sites on the vector. Full methylation can be readily achieved in vitro. Additional factor(s) that operate in vivo to control the undermethylated state are most likely proteins since the observed effect can be suppressed by chloramphenicol administration to the cell cultures.
PMCID: PMC333468  PMID: 2155405
9.  Unusual Modification of Bacteriophage Mu DNA 
Journal of Virology  1979;32(2):468-475.
Bacteriophage Mu DNA was labeled after induction in the presence of [2-3H]adenine or [8-3H]adenine. Both Mu mom+·dam+ DNA and Mu mom−·dam+ DNA have similar N6-methyladenine (MeAde) contents, as well as similar frequencies of MeAde nearest neighbors. Both DNAs are sensitive to in vitro cleavage by R·DpnI but resistant to cleavage by R·DpnII. These results indicate that the mom+ protein does not alter the sequence specificity of the host dam+ methylase to produce MeAde at new sites. However, we have discovered a new modified base, denoted Ax, in Mu mom+·dam+ DNA; approximately 15% of the adenine residues are modified to Ax. Although the precise nature of the modification is not yet defined, analysis by electrophoresis and chromatography indicates that the N6-amino group is not the site of modification, and that the added moiety contains a free carboxyl group. Ax is not present in Mu mom+·dam+ or Mu mom−·dam+ phage DNA or in cellular DNA from uninduced Mu mom+·dam+ lysogens. These results suggest that expression of the dam+ and mom+ genes are required for the Ax modification and that this modification is responsible for protecting Mu DNA against certain restriction nucleases. Mu mom+·dam− DNA and Mu mom−·dam− DNA contain a very low level of MeAde (ca. 1 MeAde per 5,000 adenine residues). Since the only nearest neighbor to MeAde appears to be cytosine, we suggest that the methylated sequence is 5′... C-A*-C... 3′ and that this methylation is mediated by the EcoK modification enzyme.
PMCID: PMC353578  PMID: 159363
10.  Mutations within the Catalytic Motif of DNA Adenine Methyltransferase (Dam) of Aeromonas hydrophila Cause the Virulence of the Dam-Overproducing Strain To Revert to That of the Wild-Type Phenotype  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(10):5763-5772.
In this study, we demonstrated that the methyltransferase activity associated with Dam was essential for attenuation of Aeromonas hydrophila virulence. We mutated aspartic acid and tyrosine residues to alanine within the conserved DPPY catalytic motif of Dam and transformed the pBAD/damD/A, pBAD/damY/A, and pBAD/damAhSSU (with the native dam gene) recombinant plasmids into the Escherichia coli GM33 (dam-deficient) strain. Genomic DNA (gDNA) isolated from either of the E. coli GM33 strains harboring the pBAD vector with the mutated dam gene was resistant to DpnI digestion and sensitive to DpnII restriction endonuclease cutting. These findings were contrary to those with the gDNA of E. coli GM33 strain containing the pBAD/damAhSSU plasmid, indicating nonmethylation of E. coli gDNA with mutated Dam. Overproduction of mutated Dam in A. hydrophila resulted in bacterial motility, hemolytic and cytotoxic activities associated with the cytotoxic enterotoxin (Act), and protease activity similar to that of the wild-type (WT) bacterium, which harbored the pBAD vector and served as a control strain. On the contrary, overproduction of native Dam resulted in decreased bacterial motility, increased Act-associated biological effects, and increased protease activity. Lactone production, an indicator of quorum sensing, was increased when the native dam gene was overexpressed, with its levels returning to that of the control strain when the dam gene was mutated. These effects of Dam appeared to be mediated through a regulatory glucose-inhibited division A protein. Infection of mice with the mutated Dam-overproducing strains resulted in mortality rates similar to those for the control strain, with 100% of the animals dying within 2 to 3 days with two 50% lethal doses (LD50s) of the WT bacterium. Importantly, immunization of mice with a native-Dam-overproducing strain at the same LD50 did not result in any lethality and provided protection to animals after subsequent challenge with a lethal dose of the control strain.
PMCID: PMC1594908  PMID: 16988254
11.  DNA Adenine Methyltransferase Influences the Virulence of Aeromonas hydrophila  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(1):410-424.
Among the various virulence factors produced by Aeromonas hydrophila, a type II secretion system (T2SS)-secreted cytotoxic enterotoxin (Act) and the T3SS are crucial in the pathogenesis of Aeromonas-associated infections. Our laboratory molecularly characterized both Act and the T3SS from a diarrheal isolate, SSU of A. hydrophila, and defined the role of some regulatory genes in modulating the biological effects of Act. In this study, we cloned, sequenced, and expressed the DNA adenine methyltransferase gene of A. hydrophila SSU (damAhSSU) in a T7 promoter-based vector system using Escherichia coli ER2566 as a host strain, which could alter the virulence potential of A. hydrophila. Recombinant Dam, designated as M.AhySSUDam, was produced as a histidine-tagged fusion protein and purified from an E. coli cell lysate using nickel affinity chromatography. The purified Dam had methyltransferase activity, based on its ability to transfer a methyl group from S-adenosyl-l-methionine to N6-methyladenine-free lambda DNA and to protect methylated lambda DNA from digestion with DpnII but not against the DpnI restriction enzyme. The dam gene was essential for the viability of the bacterium, and overproduction of Dam in A. hydrophila SSU, using an arabinose-inducible, PBAD promoter-based system, reduced the virulence of this pathogen. Specifically, overproduction of M.AhySSUDam decreased the motility of the bacterium by 58%. Likewise, the T3SS-associated cytotoxicity, as measured by the release of lactate dehydrogenase enzyme in murine macrophages infected with the Dam-overproducing strain, was diminished by 55% compared to that of a control A. hydrophila SSU strain harboring the pBAD vector alone. On the contrary, cytotoxic and hemolytic activities associated with Act as well as the protease activity in the culture supernatant of a Dam-overproducing strain were increased by 10-, 3-, and 2.4-fold, respectively, compared to those of the control A. hydrophila SSU strain. The Dam-overproducing strain was not lethal to mice (100% survival) when given by the intraperitoneal route at a dose twice that of the 50% lethal dose, which within 2 to 3 days killed 100% of the animals inoculated with the A. hydrophila control strain. Taken together, our data indicated alteration of A. hydrophila virulence by overproduction of Dam.
PMCID: PMC1346675  PMID: 16368997
12.  DNA Methylation 
EcoSal Plus  2014;2014:10.1128/ecosalplus.ESP-0003-2013.
The DNA of E. coli contains 19,120 6-methyladenines and 12,045 5-methylcytosines in addition to the four regular bases and these are formed by the postreplicative action of three DNA methyltransferases. The majority of the methylated bases are formed by the Dam and Dcm methyltransferases encoded by the dam (DNA adenine methyltransferase) and dcm (DNA cytosine methyltransferase) genes. Although not essential, Dam methylation is important for strand discrimination during repair of replication errors, controlling the frequency of initiation of chromosome replication at oriC, and regulation of transcription initiation at promoters containing GATC sequences. In contrast, there is no known function for Dcm methylation although Dcm recognition sites constitute sequence motifs for Very Short Patch repair of T/G base mismatches. In certain bacteria (e.g., Vibrio cholerae, Caulobacter crescentus) adenine methylation is essential and in C. crescentus, it is important for temporal gene expression which, in turn, is required for coordinating chromosome initiation, replication and division. In practical terms, Dam and Dcm methylation can inhibit restriction enzyme cleavage; decrease transformation frequency in certain bacteria; decrease the stability of short direct repeats; are necessary for site-directed mutagenesis; and to probe eukaryotic structure and function.
PMCID: PMC4231299  PMID: 25405210
13.  The Neisseria gonorrhoeae S.NgoVIII restriction/modification system: a type IIs system homologous to the Haemophilus parahaemolyticus HphI restriction/modification system. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(20):4147-4152.
Strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae possess numerous restriction-modification (R-M) systems. One of these systems, which has been found in all strains tested, encodes the S. NgoVIII specificity (5'TCACC 3') R-M system. We cloned two adjacent methyltransferase genes (dcmH and damH), each encoding proteins whose actions protect DNA from digestion by R.HphI or R.Ngo BI (5'TCACC 3'). The damH gene product is a N 6-methyladenine methyltransferase that recognizes this sequence. We constructed a plasmid containing multiple copies of the S.NgoVIII sequence, grew it in the presence of damH and used the HPLC to demonstrate the presence of N 6-methyladenine in the DNA. A second plasmid, containing overlapping damH and Escherichia coli dam recognition sequences in combination with various restriction digests, was used to identify which adenine in the recognition sequence was modified by damH. The predicted dcmH gene product is homologous to 5-methylcytosine methyltransferases. The products of both the dcmH and damH genes, as well as an open reading frame downstream of the damH gene are highly similar to the Haemophilus parahaemolyticus hphIMC , hphIMA and hphIR gene products, encoding the Hph I Type IIs R-M system. The S.NgoVIII R-M genes are flanked by a 97 bp direct repeat that may be involved in the mobility of this R-M system.
PMCID: PMC147021  PMID: 9321671
14.  Regulation of finP Transcription by DNA Adenine Methylation in the Virulence Plasmid of Salmonella enterica‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(16):5691-5699.
DNA adenine methylase (Dam−) mutants of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium contain reduced levels of FinP RNA encoded on the virulence plasmid. Dam methylation appears to regulate finP transcription, rather than FinP RNA stability or turnover. The finP promoter includes canonical −10 and −35 modules and depends on the σ70 factor. Regulation of finP transcription by Dam methylation does not require DNA sequences upstream from the −35 module, indicating that Dam acts at the promoter itself or downstream. Unexpectedly, a GATC site overlapping with the −10 module is likewise dispensable for Dam-mediated regulation. These observations indicate that Dam methylation regulates finP transcription indirectly and suggest the involvement of a host factor(s) responsive to the Dam methylation state of the cell. We provide evidence that one such factor is the nucleoid protein H-NS, which acts as a repressor of finP transcription in a Dam− background. H-NS also restrains transcription of the overlapping traJ gene, albeit in a Dam-independent fashion. Hence, the decreased FinP RNA content found in Dam− hosts of S. enterica appears to result from H-NS-mediated repression of finP transcription.
PMCID: PMC1196074  PMID: 16077115
15.  Identification and sequence analysis of a methylase gene in Porphyromonas gingivalis. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1991;19(15):4189-4192.
A gene from the periodontal organism Porphyromonas gingivalis has been identified as encoding a DNA methylase. The gene, referred to as pgiIM, has been sequenced and found to contain a reading frame of 864 basepairs. The putative amino acid sequence of the encoded methylase was 288 amino acids, and shared 47% and 31% homology with the Streptococcus pneumoniae DpnII and E. coli Dam methylases, respectively. The activity and specificity of the pgi methylase (M.PgiI) was confirmed by cloning the gene into a dam- strain of E. coli (JM110) and performing a restriction analysis on the isolated DNA with enzymes whose activities depended upon the methylation state of the DNA. The data indicated that M.PgiI, like DpnII and Dam, methylated the adenine residue within the sequence 5'-GATC-3'.
PMCID: PMC328560  PMID: 1870972
16.  Expression of Escherichia coli dam gene in Bacillus subtilis provokes DNA damage response: N6-methyladenine is removed by two repair pathways. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1992;20(14):3607-3615.
The dam gene of Escherichia coli encodes a DNA methyltransferase that methylates the N6 position of adenine in the sequence GATC. It was stably expressed from a shuttle vector in a repair- and recombination-proficient strain of Bacillus subtilis. In this strain the majority of plasmid DNA molecules was modified at dam sites whereas most chromosomal DNA remained unmethylated during exponential growth. During stationary phase the amount of unmethylated DNA increased, suggesting that methylated bases were being removed. An ultraviolet damage repair-deficient mutant (uvrB) contained highly methylated chromosomal and plasmid DNA. High levels of Dam methylation were detrimental to growth and viability of this mutant strain and some features of the SOS response were also induced. A mutant defective in the synthesis of adaptive DNA alkyltransferases and induction of the adaptive response (ada) also showed high methylation and properties similar to that of the dam gene expressing uvrB strain. When protein extracts from B. subtilis expressing the Dam methyltransferase or treated with N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitroso-guanidine were incubated with [3H]-labelled Dam methylated DNA, the methyl label was bound to two proteins of 14 and 9 kD. Some free N6-methyladenine was also detected in the supernatant of the incubation mixture. We propose that N6-methyladenine residues are excised by proteins involved in both excision (uvrB) and the adaptive response (ada) DNA repair pathways in B. subtilis.
PMCID: PMC334008  PMID: 1641327
17.  Escherichia coli OxyR protein represses the unmethylated bacteriophage Mu mom operon without blocking binding of the transcriptional activator C. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1996;24(20):4042-4049.
Transcription of the bacteriophage Mu mom operon requires transactivation by the phage-encoded C protein. DNase I footprinting showed that in the absence of C, Escherichia coli RNA polymerase E(sigma)70 (RNAP) binds to the mom promoter (Pmom) region at a site, P2 (from -64 to -11 with respect to the transcription start site), on the top (non-transcribed) strand. This is slightly upstream from, but overlapping P1 (-49 to +16), the functional binding site for rightward transcription. Host DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase (Dam) methylation of three GATCs immediately upstream of the C binding site is required to prevent binding of the E.coli OxyR protein, which represses mom transcription in dam- strains. OxyR, known to induce DNA bending, is normally in a reduced conformation in vivo, but is converted to an oxidized state under standard in vitro conditions. Using DNase I footprinting, we provide evidence supporting the proposal that the oxidized and reduced forms of OxyR interact differently with their target DNA sequences in vitro. A mutant form, OxyR-C199S, was shown to be able to repress mom expression in vivo in a dam- host. In vitro DNase I footprinting showed that OxyR-C199S protected Pmom from -104 to -46 on the top strand and produced a protection pattern characteristic of reduced wild-type OxyR. Prebinding of OxyR-C199S completely blocked RNAP binding to P2 (in the absence of C), whereas it only slightly decreased binding of C to its target site (-55 to -28, as defined by DNase I footprinting). In contrast, OxyR-C199S strongly inhibited C-activated recruitment of RNAP to P1. These results indicate that OxyR repression is mediated subsequent to binding by C. Mutations have been isolated that relieve the dependence on C activation and have the same transcription start site as the C-activated wild-type promoter. One such mutant, tin7, has a single base change at -14, which changes a T6 run to T3GT2. OxyR-C199S partially inhibited RNAP binding to the tin7 promoter in vitro, even though the OxyR and RNAP-P1 binding sites probably do not overlap, and in vivo expression of tin7 was reduced 5- to 10-fold in dam- cells. These results suggest that OxyR can repress tin7.
PMCID: PMC146201  PMID: 8918810
18.  Interaction of the phage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase with oligonucleotides containing native or modified (defective) recognition sites. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(21):4393-4399.
The DNA-[N 6-adenine]-methyltransferase (Dam MTase) of phage T4 catalyzes methyl group transfer from S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) to the N6-position of adenine in the palindromic sequence, GATC. We have used a gel shift assay to monitor complex formation between T4 Dam and various synthetic duplex oligonucleotides, either native or modified/defective. The results are summarized as follows. (i) T4 Dam bound with approximately 100-fold higher affinity to a 20mer specific (GATC-containing) duplex containing the canonical palindromic methylation sequence, GATC, than to a non-specific duplex containing another palindrome, GTAC. (ii) Compared with the unmethylated duplex, the hemimethylated 20mer specific duplex had a slightly increased ( approximately 2-fold) ability to form complexes with T4 Dam. (iii) No stable complex was formed with a synthetic 12mer specific (GATC-containing) duplex, although T4 Dam can methylate it. This indicates that there is no relation between formation of a catalytically competent 12mer-Dam complex and one stable to gel electrophoresis. (iv) Formation of a stable complex did not require that both strands be contiguous or completely complementary. Absence of a single internucleotide phosphate strongly reduced complex formation only when missing between the T and C residues. This suggests that if T4 Dam makes critical contact(s) with a backbone phosphate(s), then the one between T and C is the only likely candidate. Having only one half of the recognition site intact on one strand was sufficient for stable complex formation provided that the 5'G.C base-pairs be present at both ends of the palindromic, GATC. Since absence of either a G or C abolished T4 Dam binding, we conclude that both strands are recognized by T4 Dam.
PMCID: PMC147042  PMID: 9336474
19.  Dam- and OxyR-Dependent Phase Variation of agn43: Essential Elements and Evidence for a New Role of DNA Methylation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(12):3338-3347.
Phase variation of the outer membrane protein Ag43 in E. coli requires deoxyadenosine methylase (Dam) and OxyR. Previously, it was shown that OxyR is required for repression of the Ag43-encoding gene, agn43, and that Dam-dependent methylation of three GATC target sequences in the regulatory region abrogates OxyR binding. Here we report further characterization of agn43 transcription and its regulation. Transcription was initiated from a σ70-dependent promoter at the G residue of the upstream GATC sequence. Template DNA and RNA polymerase were sufficient to obtain transcription in vitro, but DNA methylation enhanced the level of transcription. Analyses of transcription in vivo of agn′-lacZ with mutated Dam target sequences support this conclusion. Since methylation also abrogates OxyR binding, this indicates that methylation plays a dual role in facilitating agn43 transcription. In vitro transcription from an unmethylated template was repressed by OxyR(C199S), which resembles the reduced form of OxyR. Consistent with this and the role of Dam in OxyR binding, OxyR(C199S) protected from DNase I digestion the agn43 regulatory region from −16 to +42, which includes the three GATC sequences. Deletion analyses of the regulatory region showed that a 101-nucleotide region of the agn43 regulatory region containing the promoter and this OxyR binding region was sufficient for Dam- and OxyR-dependent phase variation
PMCID: PMC135096  PMID: 12029051
20.  Structure of the bacteriophage T4 DNA adenine methyltransferase 
Nature structural biology  2003;10(10):849-855.
DNA-adenine methylation at certain GATC sites plays a pivotal role in bacterial and phage gene expression as well as bacterial virulence. We report here the crystal structures of the bacteriophage T4Dam DNA adenine methyltransferase (MTase) in a binary complex with the methyl-donor product S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine (AdoHcy) and in a ternary complex with a synthetic 12-bp DNA duplex and AdoHcy. T4Dam contains two domains: a seven-stranded catalytic domain that harbors the binding site for AdoHcy and a DNA binding domain consisting of a five-helix bundle and a β-hairpin that is conserved in the family of GATC-related MTase orthologs. Unexpectedly, the sequence-specific T4Dam bound to DNA in a nonspecific mode that contained two Dam monomers per synthetic duplex, even though the DNA contains a single GATC site. The ternary structure provides a rare snapshot of an enzyme poised for linear diffusion along the DNA.
PMCID: PMC4030375  PMID: 12937411
21.  Effects of DNA Methylation on Expression of Virulence Genes in Streptococcus mutans ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(20):7236-7242.
Bacteria produce a variety of enzymes capable of methylating DNA. In many species, the majority of adenine methylation is accomplished by the DNA adenine methylase Dam. In Escherichia coli the Dam methylase plays roles in the initiation of replication, mismatch repair, and gene regulation. In a number of other bacterial species, mutation or overexpression of Dam leads to attenuation of virulence. Homologues of the dam gene exist in some members of the Firmicutes, including Streptococcus mutans, a dental pathogen. An S. mutans strain inactivated in the dam gene (SMU.504; here designated damA) was engineered, and phenotypes linked to cariogenicity were examined. A prominent observation was that the damA mutant produced greater amounts of glucan than the parental strain. Real-time PCR confirmed upregulation of gtfB. To determine whether other loci were affected by the damA mutation, a microarray analysis was carried out. Seventy genes were upregulated at least 2-fold in the damA mutant, and 33 genes were downregulated at least 2-fold. In addition to gtfB (upregulated 2.6-fold; 1.7-fold when measured by real-time PCR), other upregulated virulence factors included gbpC (upregulated 2.1-fold) and loci predicted to encode bacteriocins (upregulated 2- to 7-fold). Various sugar transport operons were also upregulated, the most extreme being the cellobiose operon (upregulated nearly 40-fold). Expression of sacB, encoding fructosyltransferase, was downregulated 2.4-fold. The sequence 5′-GATC-3′ appeared to constitute the recognition sequence for methylation. These results provide evidence that DNA methylation in S. mutans has a global effect on gene expression, including that of genes associated with cariogenic potential.
PMCID: PMC3194855  PMID: 21841035
22.  Symmetry elements in DNA structure important for recognition/methylation by DNA [amino]-methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(13):3930-3934.
The phage T4Dam and EcoDam DNA-[adenine-N6] methyltransferases (MTases) methylate GATC palindromic sequences, while the BamHI DNA-[cytosine-N4] MTase methylates the GGATCC palindrome (which contains GATC) at the internal cytosine residue. We compared the ability of these enzymes to interact productively with defective duplexes in which individual elements were deleted on one chain. A sharp decrease in kcat was observed for all three enzymes if a particular element of structural symmetry was disrupted. For the BamHI MTase, integrity of the ATCC was critical, while an intact GAT sequence was necessary for the activity of T4Dam, and an intact GA was necessary for EcoDam. Theoretical alignment of the region of best contacts between the protein and DNA showed that in the case of a palindromic interaction site, a zone covering the 5′-symmetric residues is located in the major groove versus a zone of contact covering the 3′-symmetric residues in the minor groove. Our data fit a simple rule of thumb that the most important contacts are aligned around the methylation target base: if the target base is in the 5′ half of the palindrome, the interaction between the enzyme and the DNA occurs mainly in the major groove; if it is in the 3′ half, the interaction occurs mainly in the minor groove.
PMCID: PMC506800  PMID: 15280508
23.  An Epigenetic Switch Involving Overlapping Fur and DNA Methylation Optimizes Expression of a Type VI Secretion Gene Cluster 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002205.
Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) are macromolecular machines of the cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria responsible for bacterial killing and/or virulence towards different host cells. Here, we characterized the regulatory mechanism underlying expression of the enteroagregative Escherichia coli sci1 T6SS gene cluster. We identified Fur as the main regulator of the sci1 cluster. A detailed analysis of the promoter region showed the presence of three GATC motifs, which are target of the DNA adenine methylase Dam. Using a combination of reporter fusion, gel shift, and in vivo and in vitro Dam methylation assays, we dissected the regulatory role of Fur and Dam-dependent methylation. We showed that the sci1 gene cluster expression is under the control of an epigenetic switch depending on methylation: fur binding prevents methylation of a GATC motif, whereas methylation at this specific site decreases the affinity of Fur for its binding box. A model is proposed in which the sci1 promoter is regulated by iron availability, adenine methylation, and DNA replication.
Author Summary
DNA methylation plays an important role in the regulation of genes involved in assembly of cell surface adhesins or appendages. Methylation at a GATC motif by the Dam methylase influences binding of transcriptional regulators, leading to variation in the gene expression pattern. In several cases, this may lead to different cell subpopulations allowing a rapid adaptation to varying environments. In this work, we uncover the regulatory mechanism controlling expression of the sci1 Type VI secretion gene cluster in entero-aggregative Escherichia coli, which encodes a structure required for inter-bacterial interaction. We showed that this gene cluster is repressed by Fur in iron-replete conditions and that Fur binding on the promoter prevents methylation of a GATC motif. In iron-limited conditions, Fur is relieved from the promoter allowing expression of the gene cluster and methylation of the GATC motif. Methylation prevents de novo Fur binding allowing constitutive expression. Our findings support a model in which the expression of the Type VI secretion gene cluster is regulated by a non-stochastic epigenetic switch: switch from the OFF to ON phases depends on iron availability whereas the ON to OFF switch depends on DNA replication and competition between Dam-dependent methylation and Fur binding.
PMCID: PMC3145626  PMID: 21829382
24.  Evidence for a methylation-blocking factor (mbf) locus involved in pap pilus expression and phase variation in Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1991;173(5):1789-1800.
Transcription of the pyelonephritis-associated pilus (pap) operon of Escherichia coli is subject to regulation by a phase variation control mechanism in which the pap pilin gene alternates between transcriptionally active (phase-on) and inactive (phase-off) states. Pap phase variation appears to involve differential inhibition of deoxyadenosine methylase (Dam) methylation of two pap GATC sites, GATC1028 and GATC1130, located in the regulatory region upstream of the papBA promoter. DNA from phase-on cells contains an unmethylated adenosine in the GATC1028 site, whereas DNA from phase-off cells contains an unmethylated adenosine in the GATC1130 site. papI and papB are two regulatory genes in the pap operon. Analysis of pap deletion mutants suggests that papI is required for methylation inhibition at the GATC1028 site; however, neither papI nor papB is required for inhibition of methylation at the GATC1130 site. We have identified a chromosomal locus, mbf (methylation-blocking factor), that is required for methylation protection of both the pap GATC1028 and GATC1130 sites. The mbf locus was identified after transposon mTn10 mutagenesis and mapped to 19.6 min on the E. coli chromosome. The effect of transposon mutations within mbf on pap pilin transcription was determined by using a papBAp-lac operon fusion which places lacZ under control of the papBA promoter. E. coli containing mbf::mTn10 and phase-off mbf+ E. coli cells both expressed beta-galactosidase levels about 30-fold lower than the beta-galactosidase level measured for phase-on mbf+ E. coli cells. These results indicated that mbf was necessary for pap pilin transcription and were supported by Northern (RNA) blotting and primer extension analyses. Moreover, transposon insertion within mbf greatly reduced Pap pilus expression. The mbf locus was isolated on a low-copy-number cosmid, pMBF1. Complementation analysis indicated that each of seven mbf::mTn10 mutants isolated contained a transposon insertion within the same gene or operon. The identification of the mbf locus, required for pap transcription, supports the hypothesis that pap phase variation is controlled by a mechanism involving alternation between different methylation states.
PMCID: PMC207331  PMID: 1671857
25.  Isolation of Deoxyribonucleic Acid Methylase Mutants of Escherichia coli K-12 
Journal of Bacteriology  1973;114(3):1143-1150.
Fourteen deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and 10 ribonucleic acid (RNA) methylation mutants were isolated from Escherichia coli K-12 by examining the ability of nucleic acids prepared from clones of unselected mutagenized cells to accept methyl groups from wild-type crude extract. Eleven of the DNA methylation mutants were deficient in 5-methylcytosine (5-MeC) and were designated Dcm. Three DNA methylation mutants were deficient in N6-methyladenine (N6-MeA) and were designated Dam. Extracts of the mutants were tested for DNA-cytosine:S-adenosylmethionine and DNA-adenine:S-adenosylmethionine methyltransferase activities. With one exception, all of the mutants had reduced or absent activity. A representative Dcm mutation was located at 36 to 37 min and a representative Dam mutation was located in the 60-to 66-min region on the genetic map. The Dcm mutants had no obvious associated phenotypic abnormality. The Dam mutants were defective in their ability to restrict λ. None of the mutations had the effect of being lethal.
PMCID: PMC285375  PMID: 4576399

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