To investigate the apparent genomic complexity of long-genome bacteriophages, we have sequenced the 218,948-bp genome (6479 bp terminal repeat), and identified the virion proteins (55), of Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage 0305φ8-36. Phage 0305φ8-36 is an atypical myovirus with three large curly tail fibers. An accurate mode of DNA pyrosequencing was used to sequence the genome and mass spectrometry was used to accomplish the comprehensive virion protein survey. Advanced informatic techniques were used to identify classical morphogenesis genes. The 0305φ8-36 genes were highly diverged; 19% of 247 closely spaced genes have similarity to proteins with known functions. Genes for virion-associated, apparently fibrous proteins in a new class were found, in addition to strong candidates for the curly fiber genes. Phage 0305φ8-36 has twice the virion protein coding sequence of T4. Based on its genomic isolation, 0305φ8-36 is a resource for future studies of vertical gene transmission.
myovirus; Bacillus thuringiensis; pyrosequencing; virion protein; mass spectrometry
The number of successful propagations/isolations of soil-borne bacteriophages is small in comparison to the number of bacteriophages observed by microscopy (great plaque count anomaly). As one resolution of the great plaque count anomaly, we use propagation in ultra-dilute agarose gels to isolate a Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage with a large head (95 nm in diameter), tail (486 × 26 nm), corkscrew-like tail fibers (187 × 10 nm) and genome (221 Kb) that cannot be detected by the usual procedures of microbiology. This new bacteriophage, called 0305φ8-36 (first number is month/year of isolation; remaining two numbers identify the host and bacteriophage), has a high dependence of plaque size on the concentration of a supporting agarose gel. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 does not propagate in the traditional gels used for bacteriophage plaque formation and also does not produce visible lysis of liquid cultures. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 aggregates and, during de novo isolation from the environment, is likely to be invisible to procedures of physical detection that use either filtration or centrifugal pelleting to remove bacteria. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 is in a new genomic class, based on genes for both structural components and DNA packaging ATPase. Thus, knowledge of environmental virus diversity is expanded with prospect of greater future expansion.
Two essential transfer genes of the conjugative plasmid RP4 were altered by site-directed mutagenesis: traG of the primase operon and traI of the relaxase operon. To evaluate effects on the transfer phenotype of the point mutations, we have reconstituted the RP4 transfer system by fusion of the transfer regions Tra1 and Tra2 to the small multicopy replicon ColD. Deletions in traG or traI served to determine the Tra phenotype of mutant plasmids by trans complementation. Two motifs of TraG which are highly conserved among TraG-like proteins in several other conjugative DNA transfer systems were found to be essential for TraG function. One of the motifs resembles that of a nucleotide binding fold of type B. The relaxase (TraI) catalyzes the specific cleaving-joining reaction at the transfer origin needed to initiate and terminate conjugative DNA transfer (W. Pansegrau, W. Schröder, and E. Lanka, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90:2925-2929, 1993). Phenotypes of mutations in three motifs that belong to the active center of the relaxase confirmed previously obtained biochemical evidence for the contributions of the motifs to the catalytic activity of TraI. Expression of the relaxase operon is greatly increased in the absence of an intact TraI protein. This finding suggests that the relaxosome which assembles only in the presence of the TraI in addition to its enzymatic activity plays a role in gene regulation.
Novel family of putative homing endonuclease genes was recently discovered during analyses of metagenomic and genomic sequence data. One such protein is encoded within a group I intron that resides in the recA gene of the Bacillus thuringiensis 0305ϕ8–36 bacteriophage. Named I-Bth0305I, the endonuclease cleaves a DNA target in the uninterrupted recA gene at a position immediately adjacent to the intron insertion site. The enzyme displays a multidomain, homodimeric architecture and footprints a DNA region of ∼60 bp. Its highest specificity corresponds to a 14-bp pseudopalindromic sequence that is directly centered across the DNA cleavage site. Unlike many homing endonucleases, the specificity profile of the enzyme is evenly distributed across much of its target site, such that few single base pair substitutions cause a significant decrease in cleavage activity. A crystal structure of its C-terminal domain confirms a nuclease fold that is homologous to very short patch repair (Vsr) endonucleases. The domain architecture and DNA recognition profile displayed by I-Bth0305I, which is the prototype of a homing lineage that we term the ‘EDxHD’ family, are distinct from previously characterized homing endonucleases.
The recently sequenced 218 kb genome of morphologically atypical Bacillus thuringiensis phage 0305φ8-36 exhibited only limited detectable homology to known bacteriophages. The only known relative of this phage is a string of phage-like genes called BtI1 in the chromosome of B. thuringiensis israelensis. The high degree of divergence and novelty of phage genomes pose challenges in how to describe the phage from its genomic sequences.
Phage 0305φ8-36 and BtI1 are estimated to have diverged 2.0 – 2.5 billion years ago. Positionally biased Blast searches aligned 30 homologous structure or morphogenesis genes between 0305φ8-36 and BtI1 that have maintained the same gene order. Functional clustering of the genes helped identify additional gene functions. A conserved long tape measure gene indicates that a long tail is an evolutionarily stable property of this phage lineage. An unusual form of the tail chaperonin system split to two genes was characterized, as was a hyperplastic homologue of the T4gp27 hub gene. Within this region some segments were best described as encoding a conservative array of structure domains fused with a variable component of exchangeable domains. Other segments were best described as multigene units engaged in modular horizontal exchange. The non-structure genes of 0305φ8-36 appear to include the remnants of two replicative systems leading to the hypothesis that the genome plan was created by fusion of two ancestral viruses. The case for a member of the RNAi RNA-directed RNA polymerase family residing in 0305φ8-36 was strengthened by extending the hidden Markov model of this family. Finally, it was noted that prospective transcriptional promoters were distributed in a gradient of small to large transcripts starting from a fixed end of the genome.
Genomic organization at a level higher than individual gene sequence comparison can be analyzed to aid in understanding large phage genomes. Methods of analysis include 1) applying a time scale, 2) augmenting blast scores with positional information, 3) categorizing genomic rearrangements into one of several processes with characteristic rates and outcomes, and 4) correlating apparent transcript sizes with genomic position, gene content, and promoter motifs.
Amber mutants of bacteriophage P1 were used to identify functions involved in late regulation of the P1 lytic growth cycle. A single function has been genetically identified to be involved in activation of the phage-specific late promoter sequence Ps. In vivo, P1 gene 10 amber mutants fail to trans activate a lacZ operon fusion under the transcriptional control of promoter Ps. Several P1 segments, mapping around position 95 on the P1 chromosome, were cloned into multicopy plasmid vectors. Some of the cloned DNA segments had a deleterious effect on host cells unless they were propagated in a P1 lysogenic background. By deletion and sequence analysis, the harmful effect could be delimited to a 869-bp P1 fragment, containing a 453-bp open reading frame. This open reading frame was shown to be gene 10 by sequencing the amber mutation am10.1 and by marker rescue experiments with a number of other gene 10 amber mutants. Gene 10 codes for an 18.1-kDa protein showing an unusually high density of charged amino acid residues. No significant homology to sequences present in the EMBL/GenBank data base was found, and the protein contained none of the currently known DNA-binding motifs. An in vivo trans activation assay system, consisting of gene 10 under the transcriptional control of an inducible promoter and a gene S/lacZ fusion transcribed from Ps, was used to show that gene 10 is the only phage-encoded function required for late promoter activation.
Many bacterial chromosomes contain genomic islands, large DNA segments that became incorporated into the chromosome following their horizontal transmission. However, the mechanisms that mediate the lateral transfer of genomic islands are for the most part unknown. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Daccord et al describe a new type of transmissible genomic island that can be mobilized by co-resident integrating conjugative elements (ICEs). These ‘mobilizable genomic islands’ (MGIs) require many ICE-encoded factors for their transmission, including transcription activators to induce MGI excision, the relaxase to initiate transfer at the MGI oriT and the conjugation machinery to transport MGI DNA to recipient cells. However, MGIs encode their own integrases, which enable their recombination with the chromosome of a new host, as well as a variety of other genes that do not have functions related to mobility. The MGI oriT, which resembles the ICE oriT, can also serve as a site for initiation of ICE-mediated conjugative transfer of large regions of chromosomal DNA. Overall, these findings raise the possibility that mobilization of chromosomal DNA from cyptic oriTs within genomic islands or elsewhere on the chromosome could be more common place than has been previously appreciated.
In bacteria, laterally acquired genes are often concentrated within chromosomal regions known as genomic islands. Using a recently developed zebrafish infection model, we set out to identify unique factors encoded within genomic islands that contribute to the fitness and virulence of a reference urosepsis isolate—extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli strain CFT073. By screening a series of deletion mutants, we discovered a previously uncharacterized gene, neaT, that is conditionally required by the pathogen during systemic infections. In vitro assays indicate that neaT can limit bacterial interactions with host phagocytes and alter the aggregative properties of CFT073. The neaT gene is localized within an integrated P2-like bacteriophage in CFT073, but was rarely found within other proteobacterial genomes. Sequence-based analyses revealed that neaT homologues are present, but discordantly conserved, within a phyletically diverse set of bacterial species. In CFT073, neaT appears to be unameliorated, having an exceptionally A+T-rich composition along with a notably altered codon bias. These data suggest that neaT was recently brought into the proteobacterial pan-genome from an extra-phyletic source. Interestingly, even in G+C-poor genomes, as found within the Firmicutes lineage, neaT-like genes are often unameliorated. Sequence-level features of neaT homologues challenge the common supposition that the A+T-rich nature of many recently acquired genes reflects the nucleotide composition of their genomes of origin. In total, these findings highlight the complexity of the evolutionary forces that can affect the acquisition, utilization, and assimilation of rare genes that promote the niche-dependent fitness and virulence of a bacterial pathogen.
Bacterial pathogens, even those belonging to the same species, can be incredibly diverse with regard to the genes they carry. However, the design of vaccines and antibiotics typically relies upon identification of general molecular features shared by the targeted organisms. Thus, we have traditionally focused on broadly conserved characteristics of pathogenic bacteria, often ignoring the genes that account for their individuality. In this article we report the discovery of a unique gene, neaT, that promotes the fitness of a pathogenic Escherichia coli isolate in zebrafish and mouse models of systemic blood infections. Surprisingly, neaT is rarely found in other related strains of E. coli and appears to have been recently acquired from distant lineages of bacteria via a process known as ‘lateral gene transfer’ that is used by microbes to swap genetic material. Expression of the neaT gene appears to help pathogens avoid interactions with host immune cells, possibly by altering bacterial surface structures. This work provides an interesting example of how the lateral acquisition of a rare gene can impact the niche-specific virulence properties of a pathogen, shedding light on the mechanisms that drive pathogen evolution and diversity.
The oligomeric ring of prohead RNA (pRNA) is an essential component of the ATP-driven DNA packaging motor of bacteriophage ø29. The A-helix of pRNA binds the DNA translocating ATPase gp16 (gene product 16) and the CCA bulge in this helix is essential for DNA packaging in vitro. Mutation of the bulge by base substitution or deletion showed that the size of the bulge, rather than its sequence, is primary in DNA packaging activity. Proheads reconstituted with CCA bulge mutant pRNAs bound the packaging ATPase gp16 and the packaging substrate DNA-gp3, although DNA translocation was not detected with several mutants. Prohead/bulge-mutant pRNA complexes with low packaging activity had a higher rate of ATP hydrolysis per base pair of DNA packaged than proheads with wild-type pRNA. CryoEM-3D reconstruction of proheads reconstituted with a CCA deletion pRNA showed that the protruding pRNA spokes of the motor occupy a different position relative to the head when compared to particles with wild-type pRNA. Therefore, the CCA bulge seems to dictate the orientation of the pRNA spokes. The conformational changes observed for this mutant pRNA may affect gp16 conformation and/or subsequent ATPase-DNA interaction and, consequently, explain the decreased packaging activity observed for CCA mutants.
bacteriophage ø29; DNA packaging; prohead RNA; RNA structure; cryoEM-3D reconstruction
Vinyl chloride is a widespread groundwater pollutant and Group 1 carcinogen. A previous comparative genomic analysis revealed that the vinyl chloride reductase operon, vcrABC, of Dehalococcoides sp. strain VS is embedded in a horizontally-acquired genomic island that integrated at the single-copy tmRNA gene, ssrA.
We targeted conserved positions in available genomic islands to amplify and sequence four additional vcrABC -containing genomic islands from previously-unsequenced vinyl chloride respiring Dehalococcoides enrichments. We identified a total of 31 ssrA-specific genomic islands from Dehalococcoides genomic data, accounting for 47 reductive dehalogenase homologous genes and many other non-core genes. Sixteen of these genomic islands contain a syntenic module of integration-associated genes located adjacent to the predicted site of integration, and among these islands, eight contain vcrABC as genetic 'cargo'. These eight vcrABC -containing genomic islands are syntenic across their ~12 kbp length, but have two phylogenetically discordant segments that unambiguously differentiate the integration module from the vcrABC cargo. Using available Dehalococcoides phylogenomic data we estimate that these ssrA-specific genomic islands are at least as old as the Dehalococcoides group itself, which in turn is much older than human civilization.
The vcrABC -containing genomic islands are a recently-acquired subset of a diverse collection of ssrA-specific mobile elements that are a major contributor to strain-level diversity in Dehalococcoides, and may have been throughout its evolution. The high similarity between vcrABC sequences is quantitatively consistent with recent horizontal acquisition driven by ~100 years of industrial pollution with chlorinated ethenes.
The propagation of bacteriophages and other mobile genetic elements requires exploitation of the phage mechanisms involved in virion assembly and DNA packaging. Here, we identified and characterized four different families of phage-encoded proteins that function as activators required for transcription of the late operons (morphogenetic and lysis genes) in a large group of phages infecting Gram-positive bacteria. These regulators constitute a super-family of proteins, here named late transcriptional regulators (Ltr), which share common structural, biochemical and functional characteristics and are unique to this group of phages. They are all small basic proteins, encoded by genes present at the end of the early gene cluster in their respective phage genomes and expressed under cI repressor control. To control expression of the late operon, the Ltr proteins bind to a DNA repeat region situated upstream of the terS gene, activating its transcription. This involves the C-terminal part of the Ltr proteins, which control specificity for the DNA repeat region. Finally, we show that the Ltr proteins are the only phage-encoded proteins required for the activation of the packaging and lysis modules. In summary, we provide evidence that phage packaging and lysis is a conserved mechanism in Siphoviridae infecting a wide variety of Gram-positive bacteria.
The authors have previously shown that the periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter (formerly Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans Y4 contains an operon for a genotoxin known as the cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt). The cdt locus in strain Y4 is flanked by remnants of heterologous plasmid and integrase sequences. In this study, the DNA sequence immediately downstream from the cdt locus on the Y4 chromosome was examined. The extended sequence contained a region that had all the characteristics of a typical bacterial pathogenicity or genomic island. The genomic island (GIY4-1) was approximately 22 kb long, was flanked by a bacteriophage attachment (att) sequence and contained a full-length integrase/resolvase gene (xerD). A total of 22 complete and partial ORFs represented putative DNA replication/DNA binding/conjugation proteins as well as hypothetical proteins. GIY4-1 was most closely related to putative genomic islands in Haemophilus ducreyi 35000HP and Haemophilus influenzae 86-028NP and to a chromosomal region in Haemophilus somnus 129PT. GIY4-1 was not present in HK1651, which was used as the prototype strain for genomic sequencing of A. actinomycetemcomitans. Several sequences in GIY4-1 were homologous to ORFs found on the A. actinomycetemcomitans plasmid pVT745. None of the identified ORFs in GIY4-1 appeared to encode potential virulence genes. However, several unique observations supported the possibility that the cdt locus of A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4 was originally contained within the genomic island.
Background: The complement of factors involved in mobilization of the Helicobacter pylori disease-associated tfs4 genomic island are presently unknown.
tfs4 encodes a VirD2-like relaxase with distinctive DNA binding and nicking activity.
Conclusion: Tfs4 VirD2 probably initiates mobilization of tfs4 by specific interaction at a chromosomal transfer origin sequence.
Significance: Tfs4 VirD2-mediated mobilization of tfs4 may increase pathogenic potential of H. pylori strains.
Four different type IV secretion systems are variously represented in the genomes of different Helicobacter pylori strains. Two of these, encoded by tfs3 and tfs4 gene clusters are contained within self-transmissible genomic islands. Although chromosomal excision of tfs4 circular intermediates is reported to be dependent upon the function of a tfs4-encoded XerD tyrosine-like recombinase, other factors required for transfer to a recipient cell have not been demonstrated. Here, we characterize the functional activity of a putative tfs4-encoded VirD2-like relaxase protein. Tfs4 VirD2 was purified as a fusion to maltose-binding protein and demonstrated to bind and nick both supercoiled duplex DNA and oligonucleotides in vitro in a manner dependent upon the presence of Mg2+ but independently of any auxiliary proteins. Unusually, concentration-dependent nicking of duplex DNA appeared to require only transient protein-DNA interaction. Although phylogenetically distinct from established relaxase families, site-specific cleavage of oligonucleotides by Tfs4 VirD2 required the nick region sequence 5′-ATCCTG-3′ common to transfer origins (oriT) recognized by MOBP conjugative relaxases. Cleavage resulted in covalent attachment of MBP-VirD2 to the 5′-cleaved end, consistent with conventional relaxase activity. Identification of an oriT-like sequence upstream of tfs4 virD2 and demonstration of VirD2 protein-protein interaction with a putative VirC1 relaxosome component indicate that transfer initiation of the tfs4 genomic island is analogous to mechanisms underlying mobilization of other integrated mobile elements, such as integrating conjugative elements, requiring site-specific targeting of relaxase activity to a cognate oriT sequence.
Bacterial Conjugation; Bacterial Pathogenesis; DNA Enzymes; Helicobacter pylori; Protein-DNA Interaction; Protein Domains; Integrating Conjugative Element; Relaxase; Tfs4; VirD2
Bacterial magnetosomes are membrane-enveloped, nanometer-sized crystals of magnetite, which serve for magnetotactic navigation. All genes implicated in the synthesis of these organelles are located in a conserved genomic magnetosome island (MAI). We performed a comprehensive bioinformatic, proteomic and genetic analysis of the MAI in Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense. By the construction of large deletion mutants we demonstrate that the entire region is dispensable for growth, and the majority of MAI genes have no detectable function in magnetosome formation and could be eliminated without any effect. Only <25% of the region comprising four major operons could be associated with magnetite biomineralization, which correlated with high expression of these genes and their conservation among magnetotactic bacteria. Whereas only deletion of the mamAB operon resulted in the complete loss of magnetic particles, deletion of the conserved mms6, mamGFDC, and mamXY operons led to severe defects in morphology, size and organization of magnetite crystals. However, strains in which these operons were eliminated together retained the ability to synthesize small irregular crystallites, and weakly aligned in magnetic fields. This demonstrates that whereas the mamGFDC, mms6 and mamXY operons have crucial and partially overlapping functions for the formation of functional magnetosomes, the mamAB operon is the only region of the MAI, which is necessary and sufficient for magnetite biomineralization. Our data further reduce the known minimal gene set required for magnetosome formation and will be useful for future genome engineering approaches.
The TraI relaxase-helicase is the central catalytic component of the multi-protein relaxosome complex responsible for conjugative DNA transfer (CDT) between bacterial cells. CDT is a primary mechanism for the lateral propagation of microbial genetic material, including the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. The 2.4 Å resolution crystal structure of the C-terminal domain of the multifunctional Escherichia coli F plasmid TraI protein (TraI-CT) is presented, and specific structural regions essential for CDT are identified. The crystal structure reveals a novel fold composed of a 28-residue N-terminal α-Domain connected by a proline-rich loop to a compact α/β-Domain. Both the globular nature of the α/β-Domain and the presence and rigidity of the proline-rich loop are required for DNA transfer and single-stranded DNA binding. Taken together, these data establish the specific structural features of this non-catalytic domain that are essential to DNA conjugation.
Conjugative DNA Transfer; TraI; F plasmid; DNA binding; novel fold
Bacteriophage P4 replication may result in either a lytic cycle or plasmid maintenance, depending on the presence or absence, respectively, of helper phase P2 genome. Bacteriophage P4 DNA replication depends on the product of gene alpha, which has origin recognition, primase, and helicase activities. An open reading frame with the coding capacity for a protein of 106 amino acids (orf106) is located upstream of the alpha gene. Genes orf106 and alpha are transcriptionally coregulated. Three amber mutations and an internal deletion (del51) were introduced into orf106. All of the amber mutations exhibited a polar effect on transcription of the downstream alpha gene. The P4 del51 mutant was slightly defective in lytic growth and could not be propagated in the plasmid state. In this latter condition, P4 DNA overreplication was observed. Overexpression of Orf106 severely inhibited P4 DNA replication, preventing P4 lytic growth and plasmid maintenance. The inhibitory effect of Orf106 on P4 replication was not observed when both orf106 and alpha were overexpressed. We suggest that orf106 is involved in P4 replication and that a balanced expression of orf106 relative to alpha may be necessary for proper P4 DNA replication. In particular, orf106 appears to be essential for the control of P4 genome replication in the plasmid state. We propose that orf106 be named cnr, for copy number regulation.
We have identified tens of thousands of short extrachromosomal circular DNAs (microDNA) in mouse tissues as well as mouse and human cell lines. These microDNAs are 200–400 bp long, derived from unique non-repetitive sequence and are enriched in the 5' untranslated regions of genes, exons and CpG islands. Chromosomal loci that are enriched sources of microDNA in adult brain are somatically mosaic for micro-deletions that appear to arise from the excision of microDNAs. Germline microdeletions identified by the "Thousand Genomes" project may also arise from the excision of microDNAs in the germline lineage. We have thus identified a new DNA entity in mammalian cells and provide evidence that their generation leaves behind deletions in different genomic loci.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms and copy number variations are known sources of genetic variation between individuals (1–5), but there is also great interest in variations that arise during generation of somatic tissues like the mammalian brain, leading to genetic mosaicism between somatic cells. To identify sites of intramolecular homologous recombination during brain development, we searched for extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) derived from excised chromosomal regions in normal mouse embryonic brains.
Advances in DNA sequencing technology have facilitated the determination of hundreds of complete genome sequences both for bacteria and their bacteriophages. Some of these bacteria have well-developed and facile genetic systems for constructing mutants to determine gene function, and recombineering is a particularly effective tool. However, generally applicable methods for constructing defined mutants of bacteriophages are poorly developed, in part because of the inability to use selectable markers such as drug resistance genes during viral lytic growth. Here we describe a method for simple and effective directed mutagenesis of bacteriophage genomes using Bacteriophage Recombineering of Electroporated DNA (BRED), in which a highly efficient recombineering system is utilized directly on electroporated phage DNA; no selection is required and mutants can be readily detected by PCR. We describe the use of BRED to construct unmarked gene deletions, in-frame internal deletions, base substitutions, precise gene replacements, and the addition of gene tags.
In a bis-(3′-5′)-cyclic dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP)/transcription factor binding screen, we identified Mycobacterium smegmatis Ms6479 as the first c-di-GMP-responsive transcriptional factor in mycobacteria. Ms6479 could specifically bind with c-di-GMP and recognize the promoters of 37 lipid transport and metabolism genes. c-di-GMP could enhance the ability of Ms6479 to bind to its target DNA. Furthermore, our results establish Ms6479 as a global activator that positively regulates the expression of diverse target genes. Overexpression of Ms6479 in M. smegmatis significantly reduced the permeability of the cell wall to crystal violet and increased mycobacterial resistance to anti-tuberculosis antibiotics. Interestingly, Ms6479 lacks the previously reported c-di-GMP binding motifs. Our findings introduce Ms6479 (here designated LtmA for lipid transport and metabolism activator) as a new c-di-GMP-responsive regulator.
Eukaryotic topoisomerase II (topo II) is the essential decatenase of newly replicated chromosomes and the main relaxase of nucleosomal DNA. Apart from these general tasks, topo II participates in more specialized functions. In mammals, topo IIα interacts with specific RNA polymerases and chromatin-remodeling complexes, whereas topo IIβ regulates developmental genes in conjunction with chromatin remodeling and heterochromatin transitions. Here we show that in budding yeast, topo II regulates the expression of specific gene subsets. To uncover this, we carried out a genomic transcription run-on shortly after the thermal inactivation of topo II. We identified a modest number of genes not involved in the general stress response but strictly dependent on topo II. These genes present distinctive functional and structural traits in comparison with the genome average. Yeast topo II is a positive regulator of genes with well-defined promoter architecture that associates to chromatin remodeling complexes; it is a negative regulator of genes extremely hypo-acetylated with complex promoters and undefined nucleosome positioning, many of which are involved in polyamine transport. These findings indicate that yeast topo II operates on singular chromatin architectures to activate or repress DNA transcription and that this activity produces functional responses to ensure chromatin stability.
Haemophilus influenzae is one of a growing number of bacteria in which the natural ability to uptake exogenous DNA for potential genomic transformation has been recognized. To date, several operons involved in transformation in this organism have been described. These operons are characterized by a conserved 22-bp regulatory element upstream of the first gene and are induced coincident with transfer from rich to nutrient-depleted media. The previously identified operons comprised genes encoding proteins that include members of the type II secretion system and type IV pili, shown to be essential for transformation in other bacteria, and other proteins previously identified as required for transformation in H. influenzae. In the present study, three novel competence operons were identified by comparative genomics and transcriptional analysis. These operons have been further characterized by construction of null mutants and examination of the resulting transformation phenotypes. The putative protein encoded by the HI0366 gene was shown to be essential for DNA uptake, but not binding, and is homologous to a protein shown to be required for pilus biogenesis and twitching motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. An insertion in HI0939 abolished both DNA binding and uptake. The predicted product of this gene shares characteristics with PulJ, a pseudopilin involved in pullulanase export in Klebsiella oxytoca.
Lytic bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 forms visually observed aggregates during plaque formation. Aggregates intrinsically lower propagation potential. In the present study, the following observations indicate that lost propagation potential is regained with time: (1) Aggregates sometimes concentrate at the edge of clear plaques. (2) A semi-clear ring sometimes forms beyond the plaques. (3) Formation of a ring is completely correlated with the presence of aggregates at the same angular displacement along the plaque edge. To explain this aggregate-derived lowering/raising of propagation potential, the following hypothesis is presented: Aggregation/dissociation of bacteriophage of 0305φ8-36 is a selected phenomenon that evolved to maintain high host finding rate in a trade-off with maintaining high rate of bacteriophage progeny production. This hypothesis explains ringed plaque morphology observed for other bacteriophages and predicts that aggregates will undergo time-dependent change in structure as propagation potential increases. In support, fluorescence microscopy reveals time-dependent change in the distance between resolution-limited particles in aggregates.
The Mesorhizobium loti strain R7A symbiosis island is a 502-kb chromosomally integrated element which transfers to nonsymbiotic mesorhizobia in the environment, converting them to Lotus symbionts. It integrates into a phenylalanine tRNA gene in a process mediated by a P4-type integrase encoded at the left end of the element. We have determined the nucleotide sequence of the island and compared its deduced genetic complement with that reported for the 611-kb putative symbiosis island of M. loti strain MAFF303099. The two islands share 248 kb of DNA, with multiple deletions and insertions of up to 168 kb interrupting highly conserved colinear DNA regions in the two strains. The shared DNA regions contain all the genes likely to be required for Nod factor synthesis, nitrogen fixation, and island transfer. Transfer genes include a trb operon and a cluster of potential tra genes which are also present on the strain MAFF303099 plasmid pMLb. The island lacks plasmid replication genes, suggesting that it is a site-specific conjugative transposon. The R7A island encodes a type IV secretion system with strong similarity to the vir pilus from Agrobacterium tumefaciens that is deleted from MAFF303099, which in turn encodes a type III secretion system not found on the R7A island. The 414 genes on the R7A island also include putative regulatory genes, transport genes, and an array of metabolic genes. Most of the unique hypothetical genes on the R7A island are strain-specific and clustered, suggesting that they may represent other acquired genetic elements rather than symbiotically relevant DNA.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi has a 134-kb island of DNA identified as salmonella pathogenicity island 7 (SPI7), inserted between pheU and ′pheU (truncated), two genes for tRNAPhe. SPI7 has genes for Vi exopolysaccharide, for type IVB pili, for putative conjugal transfer, and for sopE bacteriophage. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis following digestion with the endonuclease I-CeuI, using DNA from a set of 120 wild-type strains of serovar Typhi assembled from several sources, identified eight strains in which the I-CeuI G fragment, which contains SPI7, had a large deletion. In addition, agglutination tests with Vi antiserum and phage typing with Vi phages show that all eight strains are Vi negative. We therefore tested these strains for deletion of SPI7 by multiplex PCR, by microarray analysis, and by sequencing of PCR amplicons. Data show that seven of the eight strains are precise deletions of SPI7: a primer pair flanking SPI7 results in a PCR amplicon containing a single pheU gene; microarrays show that all SPI7 genes are deleted. Two of the strains produce amplicons which have A derived from pheU at bp 27, while five have C derived from ′pheU at this position; thus, the position of the crossover which results in the deletion can be inferred. The deletion in the eighth strain, TYT1669, removes 175 kb with junction points in genes STY4465 and STY4664; the left junction of SPI7 and adjacent genes, as well as part of SPI7 including the viaB operon for Vi exopolysaccharide, was removed, while the right junction of SPI7 was retained. We propose that these deletions occurred during storage following isolation.
Operons are a major feature of all prokaryotic genomes, but how and why operon structures vary is not well understood. To elucidate the life-cycle of operons, we compared gene order between Escherichia coli K12 and its relatives and identified the recently formed and destroyed operons in E. coli. This allowed us to determine how operons form, how they become closely spaced, and how they die. Our findings suggest that operon evolution may be driven by selection on gene expression patterns. First, both operon creation and operon destruction lead to large changes in gene expression patterns. For example, the removal of lysA and ruvA from ancestral operons that contained essential genes allowed their expression to respond to lysine levels and DNA damage, respectively. Second, some operons have undergone accelerated evolution, with multiple new genes being added during a brief period. Third, although genes within operons are usually closely spaced because of a neutral bias toward deletion and because of selection against large overlaps, genes in highly expressed operons tend to be widely spaced because of regulatory fine-tuning by intervening sequences. Although operon evolution may be adaptive, it need not be optimal: new operons often comprise functionally unrelated genes that were already in proximity before the operon formed.
In bacteria, adjacent genes are often transcribed together in operons. Which genes are placed together in operons varies greatly across bacteria. This diversity of operon structure can be used to predict the function of genes: genes that are sometimes in an operon are likely to have related functions, even if they are transcribed separately in the organism of interest. However, it has not been clear why this diversity exists or what its consequences are. This work reconstructs evolutionarily recent changes to operon structures in the well-studied bacterium Escherichia coli. Changes in operon structure are shown to be associated with changes in gene expression patterns, so the diversity in operon structure may reflect adaptation to differing lifestyles. Indeed, some of these changes appear to be beneficial to the organism. This work also reconstructs the molecular mechanisms of operon evolution. Understanding these mechanisms should aid other analyses of bacterial genomes. For example, new operons often arise by deleting the DNA between functionally unrelated genes that happen to be near each other. Thus, recently evolved operons should not be used to infer their genes' function. Overall, this work provides a framework for understanding the evolutionary life-cycle of operons.