The mrr gene of Escherichia coli K-12 is involved in the acceptance of foreign DNA which is modified. The introduction of plasmids carrying the HincII, HpaI, and TaqI R and M genes is severely restricted in E. coli strains that are Mrr+. A 2-kb EcoRI fragment from the plasmid pBg3 (B. Sain and N. E. Murray, Mol. Gen. Genet. 180:35-46, 1980) was cloned. The resulting plasmid restores Mrr function to mrr strains of E. coli. The boundaries of the mrr gene were determined from an analysis of subclones, and plasmids with a functional mrr gene produce a polypeptide of 33.5 kDa. The nucleotide sequence of the entire fragment was determined; in addition to mrr, it includes two open reading frames, one of which encodes part of the hsdR. By using Southern blot analysis, E. coli RR1 and HB101 were found to lack the region containing mrr. The acceptance of various cloned methylases in E. coli containing the cloned mrr gene was tested. Plasmid constructs containing the AccI, CviRI, HincII, Hinfl (HhaII), HpaI, NlaIII, PstI, and TaqI N6-adenine methylases and SssI and HhaI C5-cytosine methylases were found to be restricted. Plasmid constructs containing 16 other adenine methylases and 12 cytosine methylases were not restricted. No simple consensus sequence causing restriction has been determined. The Mrr protein has been overproduced, an antibody has been prepared, and the expression of mrr under various conditions has been examined. The use of mrr strains of E. coli is suggested for the cloning of N6-adenine and C5-cytosine methyl-containing DNA.
A mutant (designated mec−) has been isolated from Escherichia coli C which has lost DNA-cytosine methylase activity and the ability to protect phage λ against in vivo restriction by the RII endonuclease. This situation is analogous to that observed with an E. coli K-12 mec− mutant; thus, the E. coli C methylase appears to have overlapping sequence specificity with the K-12 and RII enzymes; (the latter methylases have been shown previously to recognize the same sequence). Covalently closed, supertwisted double-standed DNA (RFI) was isolated from C mec+ and C mec− cells infected with bacteriophage φX174. φX· mec− RFI is sensitive to in vitro cleavage by R·EcoRII and is cut twice to produce two fragments of almost equal size. In contrast, φX·mec+ RFI is relatively resistant to in vitro cleavage by R·EcoRII. R·BstI, which cleaves mec+/RII sites independent of the presence or absence of 5-methylcytosine, cleaves both forms of the RFI and produces two fragments similar in size to those observed with R· EcoRII. These results demonstrate that φX·mec+ RFI is methylated in vivo by the host mec+ enzyme and that this methylation protects the DNA against cleavage by R·EcoRII. This is consistent with the known location of two mec+/ RII sequences (viz., [Formula: see text]) on the φX174 map. Mature singlestranded virion DNA was isolated from φX174 propagated in C mec+ or C mec− in the presence of l-[methyl-3H]methionine. Paper chromatographic analyses of acid hydrolysates revealed that φX·mec+ DNA had a 10-fold-higher ratio of [3H]5-methylcytosine to [3H]cytosine compared to φX·mec−. Since φX·mec+ contains, on the average, approximately 1 5-methylcytosine residue per viral DNA, we conclude that methylation of φX174 is mediated by the host mec+ enzyme only. These results are not consistent with the conclusions of previous reports that φX174 methylation is mediated by a phage-induced enzyme and that methylation is essential for normal phage development.
Prokaryotic DNA[cytosine-C5]methyltransferases (m5C-methylases) share a common architectural arrangement of ten conserved sequence motifs. A series of eleven hybrids have been constructed between the HpaII (recognition sequence: Cm5CGG) and HhaI (recognition sequence: Gm5CGC) DNA-methylases. The hybrids were over-expressed in E.coli and their in vivo methylation phenotypes investigated. Six were inactive by our assay while five of them retained partial methylation activity and full specificity. In all five cases the specificity matched that of the parent methylase which contributed the so-called variable region, located between conserved motifs VIII and IX. This was the only sequence held in common between the active hybrids and for the first time provides unequivocal evidence that the specificity determinants of the mono-specific m5C-methylases are located within the variable region. Correlation of the hybrid methylase structure with the efficiency of methylation suggests that conserved motif IX may interact with the variable region whereas motif X most probably interacts with the N-terminal half of the molecule.
Like many eukaryotes, bacteria make widespread use of postreplicative DNA methylation for the epigenetic control of DNA-protein interactions. Unlike eukaryotes, however, bacteria use DNA adenine methylation (rather than DNA cytosine methylation) as an epigenetic signal. DNA adenine methylation plays roles in the virulence of diverse pathogens of humans and livestock animals, including pathogenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Vibrio, Yersinia, Haemophilus, and Brucella. In Alphaproteobacteria, methylation of adenine at GANTC sites by the CcrM methylase regulates the cell cycle and couples gene transcription to DNA replication. In Gammaproteobacteria, adenine methylation at GATC sites by the Dam methylase provides signals for DNA replication, chromosome segregation, mismatch repair, packaging of bacteriophage genomes, transposase activity, and regulation of gene expression. Transcriptional repression by Dam methylation appears to be more common than transcriptional activation. Certain promoters are active only during the hemimethylation interval that follows DNA replication; repression is restored when the newly synthesized DNA strand is methylated. In the E. coli genome, however, methylation of specific GATC sites can be blocked by cognate DNA binding proteins. Blockage of GATC methylation beyond cell division permits transmission of DNA methylation patterns to daughter cells and can give rise to distinct epigenetic states, each propagated by a positive feedback loop. Switching between alternative DNA methylation patterns can split clonal bacterial populations into epigenetic lineages in a manner reminiscent of eukaryotic cell differentiation. Inheritance of self-propagating DNA methylation patterns governs phase variation in the E. coli pap operon, the agn43 gene, and other loci encoding virulence-related cell surface functions.
The dcm locus of Escherichia coli K-12 has been shown to code for a methylase that methylates the second cytosine within the sequence 5'-CC(A/T)GG-3'. This sequence is also recognized by the EcoRII restriction-modification system coded by the E. coli plasmid N3. The methylase within the EcoRII system methylates the same cytosine as the dcm protein. We have isolated, from a library of E. coli K-12 DNA, two overlapping clones that carry the dcm locus. We show that the two clones carry overlapping sequences that are present in a dcm+ strain, but are absent in a delta dcm strain. We also show that the cloned gene codes for a methylase, that it complements mutations in the EcoRII methylase, and that it protects EcoRII recognition sites from cleavage by the EcoRII endonuclease. We found no phage restriction activity associated with the dcm clones.
The HpaII restriction-modification system from Haemophilus parainfluenzae recognizes the DNA sequence CCGG. The gene for the HpaII methylase has been cloned into E. coli and its nucleotide sequence has been determined. The DNA of the clones is fully protected against cleavage by the HpaII restriction enzyme in vitro, indicating that the methylase gene is active in E. coli. The clones were isolated in an McrA-strain of E. coli; attempts to isolate them in an McrA+ strain were unsuccessful. The clones do not express detectable HpaII restriction endonuclease activity, suggesting that either the endonuclease gene is not expressed well in E. coli, or that it is not present in its entirety in any of the clones that we have isolated. The derived amino acid sequence of the HpaII methylase shows overall similarity to other cytosine methylases. It bears a particularly close resemblance to the sequences of the HhaI, BsuFI and MspI methylases. When compared with three other methylases that recognize CCGG, the variable region of the HpaII methylase, which is believed to be responsible for sequence specific recognition, shows some similarity to the corresponding regions of the BsuFI and MspI methylases, but is rather dissimilar to that of the SPR methylase.
Two DNA methylase activities of Escherichia coli C, the mec (designates DNA-cytosine-methylase gene, which is also designated dcm) and dam gene products, were physically separated by DEAE-cellulose column chromatography. The sequence and substrate specificity of the two enzymes were studied in vitro. The experiments revealed that both enzymes show their expected sequence specificity under in vitro conditions, methylating symmetrically on both DNA strands. The mec enzyme methylates exclusively the internal cytosine residue of CCATGG sequences, and the dam enzyme methylates adenine residues at GATC sites. Substrate specificity experiments revealed that both enzymes methylate in vitro unmethylated duplex DNA as efficiently as hemimethylated DNA. The results of these experiments suggest that the methylation at a specific site takes place by two independent events. A methyl group in a site on one strand of the DNA does not facilitate the methylation of the same site on the opposite strand. With the dam methylase it was found that the enzyme is incapable of methylating GATC sites located at the ends of DNA molecules.
The turnover of DNA-adenine-methylase of E. coli strongly decreases when the temperature is lowered. This has allowed us to study the binding of Dam methylase on 14 bp DNA fragments at 0 degrees C by gel retardation in the presence of Ado-Met, but without methylation taking place. The enzyme can bind non-specific DNA with low affinity. Binding to the specific sequence occurs in the absence of S-adenosyl-methionine (Ado-Met), but is activated by the presence of the methyl donor. The two competitive inhibitors of Ado-Met, sinefungin and S-adenosyl-homocysteine, can neither activate this binding to DNA by themselves, nor inhibit this activation by Ado-Met. This suggests that Ado-Met could bind to Dam methylase in two different environments. In one of them, it could play the role of an allosteric effector which would reinforce the affinity of the enzyme for the GATC site. The analogues can not compete for such binding. In the other environment Ado-Met would be in the catalytic site and could be exchanged by its analogues. We have also visualized conformational changes in Dam methylase induced by the simultaneous binding of Ado-Met and the specific target sequence of the enzyme, by an anomaly of migration and partial resistance to proteolytic treatment of the ternary complex Ado-Met/Dam methylase/GATC.
Antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae has been associated with the acquisition of R plasmids from heterologous organisms. The broad-host-range plasmids of incompatibility groups P (IncP) and Q (IncQ) have played a role in this genetic exchange in nature. We have utilized derivatives of RSF1010 (IncQ) and RP1 (IncP) to demonstrate that the plethora of restriction barriers associated with the gonococci markedly reduces mobilization of plasmids from Escherichia coli into strains F62 and PGH 3-2. Partially purified restriction endonucleases from these gonococcal strains can digest RSF1010 in vitro. Protection of RSF1010-km from digestion by gonococcal enzymes purified from strain F62 is observed when the plasmid is isolated from E. coli containing a coresident plasmid, pCAL7. Plasmid pCAL7 produces a 5'-MECG-3' cytosine methylase (M.SssI). The M.SssI methylase only partially protects RSF1010-km from digestion by restriction enzymes from strain PGH 3-2. Total protection of RSF1010-km from PGH 3-2 restriction requires both pCAL7 and a second coresident plasmid, pFnuDI, which produces a 5'-GGMECC-3' cytosine methylase. When both F62 and PGH 3-2 are utilized as recipients in heterospecific matings with E. coli, mobilization of RSF1010 from strains containing the appropriate methylases into the gonococci occurs at frequencies 4 orders of magnitude higher than from strains without the methylases. Thus, protection of RSF1010 from gonococcal restriction enzymes in vitro correlates with an increase in the conjugal frequency. These data indicate that restriction is a major barrier against efficient conjugal transfer between N. gonorrhoeae and heterologous hosts.
The genes encoding the MspI restriction modification system, which recognizes the sequence 5' CCGG, have been cloned into pUC9. Selection was based on expression of the cloned methylase gene which renders plasmid DNA insensitive to MspI cleavage in vitro. Initially, an insert of 15 kb was obtained which, upon subcloning, yielded a 3 kb EcoRI to HindIII insert, carrying the genes for both the methylase and the restriction enzyme. This insert has been sequenced. Based upon the sequence, together with appropriate subclones, it is shown that the two genes are transcribed divergently with the methylase gene encoding a polypeptide of 418 amino acids, while the restriction enzyme is composed of 262 amino acids. Comparison of the sequence of the MspI methylase with other cytosine methylases shows a striking degree of similarity. Especially noteworthy is the high degree of similarity with the HhaI and EcoRII methylases.
Deamination of 5-methylcytosine in DNA results in T/G mismatches. If unrepaired, these mismatches can lead to C-to-T transition mutations. The very short patch (VSP) repair process in Escherichia coli counteracts the mutagenic process by repairing the mismatches in favor of the G-containing strand. Previously we have shown that a plasmid containing an 11-kilobase fragment from the E. coli chromosome can complement a chromosomal mutation defective in both cytosine methylation and VSP repair. We have now mapped the regions essential for the two phenotypes. In the process, we have constructed plasmids that complement the chromosomal mutation for methylation, but not for repair, and vice versa. The genes responsible for these phenotypes have been identified by DNA sequence analysis. The gene essential for cytosine methylation, dcm, is predicted to code for a 473-amino-acid protein and is not required for VSP repair. It is similar to other DNA cytosine methylases and shares extensive sequence similarity with its isoschizomer, EcoRII methylase. The segment of DNA essential for VSP repair contains a gene that should code for a 156-amino-acid protein. This gene, named vsr, is not essential for DNA methylation. Remarkably, the 5' end of this gene appears to overlap the 3' end of dcm. The two genes appear to be transcribed from a common promoter but are in different translational registers. This gene arrangement may assure that Vsr is produced along with Dcm and may minimize the mutagenic effects of cytosine methylation.
Differences in the type of base methylated (cytosine or adenine) and in the extent of methylation were detected by high-pressure liquid chromatography in the DNAs of five spiroplasmas. Nearest neighbor analysis and digestion by restriction enzyme isoschizomers also revealed differences in methylation sequence specificity. Whereas in Spiroplasma floricola and Spiroplasma sp. strain PPS-1 5-methylcytosine was found on the 5' side of each of the four major bases, the cytosine in Spiroplasma apis DNA was methylated only when its 3' neighboring base was adenine or thymine. In Spiroplasma sp. strain MQ-1 over 95% of the methylated cytosine was in C-G sequences. Essentially all of the C-G sequences in the MQ-1 DNA were methylated. Partially purified extracts of S. apis and Spiroplasma sp. strain MQ-1 were used to study substrate and sequence specificity of the methylase activity. Methylation by the MQ-1 enzyme was exclusively at C-G sequences, resembling in this respect eucaryotic DNA methylases. However, the MQ-1 methylase differed from eucaryotic methylases by showing high activity on nonmethylated DNA duplexes, low activity with hemimethylated DNA duplexes, and no activity on single-stranded DNA.
The gene coding for a CGCG specific DNA methylase has been cloned in E. coli from Brevibacterium epidermidis. The enzyme, named BepI methylase, is probably the cognate methylase of the FnuDII isoschizomer BepI endonuclease isolated from this strain. The expression of BepI methylase in E. coli is dependent on the orientation of the cloned fragment suggesting that the gene is transcribed from a promoter on the plasmid vector. No BepI endonuclease could be detected in the clones producing BepI methylase. The nucleotide sequence of the BepI methylase gene has been determined, it predicts a protein of 403 amino acids (MR: 45,447). Analysis of the amino acid sequence deduced from the nucleotide sequence revealed similarities between the BepI methylase and other cytosine methylases. M. BepI methylates the external cytosine in its recognition sequence.
We have determined the nature of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) modification governed by the SA host specificity system of Salmonella typhimurium. Two lines of evidence indicate that SA modification is based on methylation of DNA-adenine residues. (i) The SA+ locus of Salmonella was transferred into Escherichia coli B, a strain that does not contain 5-methylcytosine in its DNA; although the hybrid strain was able to confer SA modification, its DNA still did not contain 5-methylcytosine. (ii) the N6-methyladenine content of phage L DNA was measured after growth in various host strains; phage lacking SA modification contained fewer N6-methyladenine residues per DNA. We also investigated the possibility, suggested by others (32), that SA modification protects phage DNA against restriction by the RII host specificity system. Phages lambda, P3, and L were grown in various SA+ and SA- hosts and tested for their relative plating ability on strains containing or lacking RII restriction; the presence or absence of SA modification had no effect on RII restriation. In vitro studies revealed, however, that Salmonella DNA is protected against cleavage by purified RII restriction endonuclease (R-EcoRII). This protection is not dependent on SA modification; rather, it appears to be due to methylation by a DNA-cytosine methylase which has overlapping specificity with the RII modification enzyme, but which is not involved in any other known host specificity system.
The influence of cytosine methylation on the supercoil-stabilized B-Z equilibrium in Escherichia coli was analyzed by two independent assays. Both the M.EcoRI inhibition assay and the linking-number assay have been used previously to establish that dC-dG segments of sufficient lengths can exist as left-handed helices in vivo. A series of dC-dG plasmid inserts with Z-form potential, ranging in length from 14 to 74 base pairs, was investigated. Complete methylation of cytosine at all HhaI sites, including the inserts, was obtained by coexpression of the HhaI methyltransferase (M.HhaI) in cells also carrying a dC-dG-containing plasmid. Both assays showed that for all lengths of dC-dG inserts, the relative amounts of B and Z helices were shifted to more Z-DNA in the presence of M.HhaI than in the absence of M.HhaI. These results indicate that cytosine methylation enhances the formation of Z-DNA helices at the superhelix density present in E. coli. The B-Z equilibrium, in combination with site-specific base methylation, may constitute a concerted mechanism for the modulation of DNA topology and DNA-protein interactions.
A 6.3 kb fragment of E.coli RFL57 DNA coding for the type IV restriction-modification system Eco57I was cloned and expressed in E.coli RR1. A 5775 bp region of the cloned fragment was sequenced which contains three open reading frames (ORF). The methylase gene is 1623 bp long, corresponding to a protein of 543 amino acids (62 kDa); the endonuclease gene is 2991 bp in length (997 amino acids, 117 kDa). The two genes are transcribed convergently from different strands with their 3'-ends separated by 69 bp. The third short open reading frame (186 bp, 62 amino acids) has been identified, that precedes and overlaps by 7 nucleotides the ORF encoding the methylase. Comparison of the deduced Eco57I endonuclease and methylase amino acid sequences revealed three regions of significant similarity. Two of them resemble the conserved sequence motifs characteristic of the DNA[adenine-N6] methylases. The third one shares similarity with corresponding regions of the PaeR7I, TaqI, CviBIII, PstI, BamHI and HincII methylases. Homologs of this sequence are also found within the sequences of the PaeR7I, PstI and BamHI restriction endonucleases. This is the first example of a family of cognate restriction endonucleases and methylases sharing homologous regions. Analysis of the structural relationship suggests that the type IV enzymes represent an intermediate in the evolutionary pathway between the type III and type II enzymes.
We describe here the cloning, characterization and expression in E. coli of the gene coding for a DNA methylase from Spiroplasma sp. strain MQ1 (M.SssI). This enzyme methylates completely and exclusively CpG sequences. The Spiroplasma gene was transcribed in E. coli using its own promoter. Translation of the entire message required the use of an opal suppressor, suggesting that UGA triplets code for tryptophan in Spiroplasma. Sequence analysis of the gene revealed several UGA triplets, in a 1158 bp long open reading frame. The deduced amino acid sequence revealed in M.SssI all common domains characteristic of bacterial cytosine DNA methylases. The putative sequence recognition domain of M.SssI showed no obvious similarities with that of the mouse DNA methylase, in spite of their common sequence specificity. The cloned enzyme methylated exclusively CpG sequences both in vivo and in vitro. In contrast to the mammalian enzyme which is primarily a maintenance methylase, M.SssI displayed de novo methylase activity, characteristic of prokaryotic cytosine DNA methylases.
Two pairs of restriction enzyme isoschizomers were used to study in vivo methylation of E. coli and extrachromosomal DNA. By use of the restriction enzymes MboI (which cleaves only the unmethylated GATC sequence) and its isoschizomer Sau3A (indifferent to methylated adenine at this sequence), we found that all the GATC sites in E. coli and in extrachromosomal DNAs are symmetrically methylated on both strands. The calculated number of GATC sites in E. coli DNA can account for all its m6Ade residues. Foreign DNA, like mouse mtDNA, which is not methylated at GATC sites became fully methylated at these sequences when introduced by transfection into E. coli cells. This experiment provides the first evidence for the operation of a de novo methylation mechanism for E. coli methylases not involved in restriction modification. When the two restriction enzyme isoschizomers, EcoRII and ApyI, were used to analyze the methylation pattern of CCTAGG sequences in E. coli C and phi X174 DNA, it was found that all these sites are methylated. The number of CCTAGG sites in E. coli C DNA does not account for all m5Cyt residues.
The N6-methyladenine (MeAde) and 5-methylcytosine (MeC) contents in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of bacteriophage lambda has been analyzed as a function of host specificity. The following facts have emerged: (i) lambda grown on strains harboring the P1 prophage contain ca. 70 more MeAde residues/DNA molecule than lambda grown either in the P1-sensitive parent, or in a P1 immune-defective lysogen which does not confer P1 modification; (ii) lambda grown on strains harboring the N-3 drug-resistance factor contain ca. 60 more MeC residues/DNA molecule than lambda grown on the parental strain lacking the factor; (iii) lambda grown in Escherichia coli B strains is devoid of MeC, whereas lambda grown in a B (N-3) host contains a high level of MeC; (iv) the MeAde content in lambda DNA is not affected by the N-3 factor. These results suggest that P1 controls an adenine-specific DNA methylase, and that the N-3 plasmid controls a cytosine-specific DNA methylase. The N-3 factor has been observed previously to direct cytosine-specific methylation of phage P22 DNA and E. coli B DNA in vivo; in vitro studies presented here demonstrate this activity.
The transforming activity of cloned Moloney sarcoma virus (MSV) proviral DNA was inhibited by in vitro methylation of the DNA at cytosine residues, using HpaII and HhaI methylases before transfection into NIH 3T3 cells. The inhibition of transforming activity due to HpaII methylation was reversed by treatment of the transfected cells with 5-azacytidine, a specific inhibitor of methylation. Analysis of the genomic DNA from the transformed cells which resulted from the transfection of methylated MSV DNA revealed that the integrated MSV proviral DNA was sensitive to HpaII digestion in all cell lines examined, suggesting that loss of methyl groups was necessary for transformation. When cells were infected with Moloney murine leukemia virus at various times after transfection with methylated MSV DNA, the amount of transforming virus produced indicated that the loss of methyl groups occurred within 24 h. Methylation of MSV DNA at HhaI sites was as inhibitory to transforming activity as methylation at HpaII sites. In addition, methylation at both HpaII and HhaI sites did not further reduce the transforming activity of the DNA. These results suggested that; whereas methylation of specific sites on the provirus may not be essential for inhibiting the transforming activity of MSV DNA, methylation of specific regions may be necessary. Thus, by cotransfection of plasmids containing only specific regions of the MSV provirus, it was determined that methylation of the v-mos gene was more inhibitory to transformation than methylation of the viral long terminal repeat.
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.
L-ethionine has been found to inhibit uracil tRNA methylating enzymes in vitro under conditions where methylation of other tRNA bases is unaffected. No selective inhibitor for uracil tRNA methylases has been identified previously. 15 mM L-ethionine or 30 mM D,L-ethionine caused about 40% inhibition of tRNA methylation catalyzed by enzyme extracts from E. coli B or E. coli M3S (mixtures of methylases for uracil, guanine, cytosine, and adenine) but did not inhibit the activity of preparations from an E. coli mutant that lacks uracil tRNA methylase. Analysis of the 14CH3 bases in methyl-deficient E. coli tRNA after its in vitro methylation with E. coli B3 enzymes in the presence or absence of ethionine showed that ethionine inhibited 14CH3 transfer to uracil in tRNA, but did not diminish significantly the 14CH3 transfer to other tRNA bases. Under similar conditions 0.6 mM S-adenosylethionine and 0.2 mM ethylthioadenosine inhibited the overall tRNA base methylating activity of E. coli B preparations about 50% but neither of these ethionine metabolites preferentially inhibited uracil methylation. Ethionine was not competitive with S-adenosyl methionine. Uracil methylation was not inhibited by alanine, valine, or ethionine sulfoxide. It is suggested that the thymine deficiency that we found earlier in tRNA from ethionine-treated E. coli B cells, resulted from base specific inhibition by the amino acid, ethionine, of uracil tRNA methylation in vivo.
NruI and Sbo13I are restriction enzyme isoschizomers with the same recognition sequence 5' TCG↓CGA 3' (cleavage as indicated↓). Here we report the cloning of NruI and Sbo13I restriction-modification (R-M) systems in E. coli. The NruI restriction endonuclease gene (nruIR) was cloned by PCR and inverse PCR using primers designed from the N-terminal amino acid sequence. The NruI methylase gene (nruIM) was derived by inverse PCR walking.
The amino acid sequences of NruI endonuclease and methylase are very similar to the Sbo13I R-M system which has been cloned and expressed in E. coli by phage selection of a plasmid DNA library. Dot blot analysis using rabbit polyclonal antibodies to N6mA- or N4mC-modified DNA indicated that M.NruI is possibly a N6mA-type amino-methyltransferase that most likely modifies the external A in the 5' TCGCGA 3' sequence. M.Sbo13I, however, is implicated as a probable N4mC-type methylase since plasmid carrying sbo13IM gene is not restricted by Mrr endonuclease and Sbo13I digestion is not blocked by Dam methylation of the overlapping site. The amino acid sequence of M.NruI and M.Sbo13I did not show significant sequence similarity to many known amino-methyltransferases in the α, β, and γ groups, except to a few putative methylases in sequenced microbial genomes.
The order of the conserved amino acid motifs (blocks) in M.NruI/M.Sbo13I is similar to the γ. group amino-methyltranferases, but with two distinct features: In motif IV, the sequence is DPPY instead of NPPY; there are two additional conserved motifs, IVa and Xa as extension of motifs IV and X, in this family of enzymes. We propose that M.NruI and M.Sbo13I form a subgroup in the γ group of amino-methyltransferases.
The prokaryotic CpG‐specific DNA methylase from Spiroplasma, SssI methylase, has been extensively used to methylate plasmid DNA in vitro to investigate the effects of methylation in vertebrate systems. Currently available methods to produce CpG‐methylated plasmid DNA have certain limitations and cannot generate large quantities of methylated DNA without cost or problems of purity. Here we describe an approach in which the SssI methylase gene has been introduced into the Escherichia coli bacterial genome under the control of an inducible promoter. Plasmid DNA propagated in this bacterium under conditions which induce the methylase gene result in significant (> 90%) CpG methylation. Methylated DNA produced by this approach behaves similarly to methylated DNA produced in vitro using the purified methylase. The approach is scalable allowing for the production of milligram quantities of methylated plasmid DNA.
The proposed mechanism for DNA (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases envisions a key role for a cysteine residue. It is expected to form a covalent link with carbon 6 of the target cytosine, activating the normally inactive carbon 5 for methyl transfer. There is a single conserved cysteine among all DNA (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases making it the candidate nucleophile. We have changed this cysteine to other amino acids for the EcoRII methylase; which methylates the second cytosine in the sequence 5'-CCWGG-3'. Mutants were tested for their methyl transferring ability and for their ability to form covalent complexes with DNA. The latter property was tested indirectly with the use of a genetic assay involving sensitivity of cells to 5-azacytidine. Replacement of the conserved cysteine with glycine, valine, tryptophan or serine led to an apparent loss of methyl transferring ability. Interestingly, cells carrying the mutant with serine did show sensitivity to 5-azacytidine, suggesting the ability to link to DNA. Unexpectedly, substitution of the cysteine with glycine results in the inhibition of cell growth and the mutant allele can be maintained in the cells only when it is poorly expressed. These results suggest that the conserved cysteine in the EcoRII methylase is essential for methylase action and it may play more than one role in it.