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1.  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
2.  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
3.  Methylation dependent expression of the mom gene of bacteriophage Mu: deletions downstream from the methylation sites affect expression. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1984;12(8):3535-3550.
The expression of the DNA modification gene (mom) of bacteriophage Mu requires the cellular deoxyadenosine methylase (dam) and a transactivation factor from the phage. By hypothesis, the transcription of mom is activated by methylation of three GATC sequences upstream from the mom gene. We have introduced small deletions at a fourth GATC site located about 140 base pairs downstream from the primary methylation region. Some of the deletions severely affect the mom gene expression. We propose from this analysis that (1) some important elements, possibly the promoter, concerned with the expression of mom are located between nucleotides 840 and 880 from the right end of Mu and (2) the mom protein starts with the codon GTG located at position 810. We favor the hypothesis that methylation turns off transcription upstream, thereby allowing the main mom promoter to function.
PMCID: PMC318767  PMID: 6328425
4.  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
5.  Molecular cloning, sequencing, and mapping of the bacteriophage T2 dam gene. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1988;170(11):5177-5184.
Bacteriophage T2 codes for a DNA-(adenine-N6)methyltransferase (Dam), which is able to methylate both cytosine- and hydroxymethylcytosine-containing DNAs to a greater extent than the corresponding methyltransferase encoded by bacteriophage T4. We have cloned and sequenced the T2 dam gene and compared it with the T4 dam gene. In the Dam coding region, there are 22 nucleotide differences, 4 of which result in three coding differences (2 are in the same codon). Two of the amino acid alterations are located in a region of homology that is shared by T2 and T4 Dam, Escherichia coli Dam, and the modification enzyme of Streptococcus pneumoniae, all of which methylate the sequence 5' GATC 3'. The T2 dam and T4 dam promoters are not identical and appear to have slightly different efficiencies; when fused to the E. coli lacZ gene, the T4 promoter produces about twofold more beta-galactosidase activity than does the T2 promoter. In our first attempt to isolate T2 dam, a truncated gene was cloned on a 1.67-kilobase XbaI fragment. This construct produces a chimeric protein composed of the first 163 amino acids of T2 Dam followed by 83 amino acids coded by the pUC18 vector. Surprisingly, the chimera has Dam activity, but only on cytosine-containing DNA. Genetic and physical analyses place the T2 dam gene at the same respective map location as the T4 dam gene. However, relative to T4, T2 contains an insertion of 536 base pairs 5' to the dam gene. Southern blot hybridization and computer analysis failed to reveal any homology between this insert and either T4 or E. coli DNA.
PMCID: PMC211587  PMID: 3053648
6.  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
7.  Divergent Evolution of CHD3 Proteins Resulted in MOM1 Refining Epigenetic Control in Vascular Plants 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(8):e1000165.
Arabidopsis MOM1 is required for the heritable maintenance of transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). Unlike many other silencing factors, depletion of MOM1 evokes transcription at selected loci without major changes in DNA methylation or histone modification. These loci retain unusual, bivalent chromatin properties, intermediate to both euchromatin and heterochromatin. The structure of MOM1 previously suggested an integral nuclear membrane protein with chromatin-remodeling and actin-binding activities. Unexpected results presented here challenge these presumed MOM1 activities and demonstrate that less than 13% of MOM1 sequence is necessary and sufficient for TGS maintenance. This active sequence encompasses a novel Conserved MOM1 Motif 2 (CMM2). The high conservation suggests that CMM2 has been the subject of strong evolutionary pressure. The replacement of Arabidopsis CMM2 by a poplar motif reveals its functional conservation. Interspecies comparison suggests that MOM1 proteins emerged at the origin of vascular plants through neo-functionalization of the ubiquitous eukaryotic CHD3 chromatin remodeling factors. Interestingly, despite the divergent evolution of CHD3 and MOM1, we observed functional cooperation in epigenetic control involving unrelated protein motifs and thus probably diverse mechanisms.
Author Summary
Epigenetic regulation of transcription usually involves changes in histone modifications, as well as DNA methylation changes in plants and mammals. Previously, we found an exceptional epigenetic regulator in Arabidopsis, MOM1, acting independently of these epigenetic marks. Interestingly, MOM1 controls loci associated with bivalent chromatin marks, intermediate to active euchromatin and silent heterochromatin. Such bivalent marks are often associated with newly inserted and/or potentially active transposons, silent transgenes, and certain chromosomal loci. Notably, bivalent chromatin seems to be characteristic for embryonic stem cells, where such loci change their activity and determination of epigenetic marks during cell differentiation. Here, we provide evidence that in vascular plants, the MOM1-like proteins evolved from the ubiquitous eukaryotic chromatin remodeling factor CHD3. The domains necessary for CHD3 function degenerated in MOM1, became dispensable for its gene silencing activity, and were replaced by a novel, unrelated domain providing silencing function. Therefore, MOM1-like proteins use a different silencing mechanism compared to the ancestral CHD3s. In spite of this divergent evolution, CHD3 and MOM1 seem to retain a functional cooperation in control of transcriptionally silent loci. Our results provide an unprecedented example of an evolutionary path for epigenetic components resulting in increased complexity of an epigenetic regulatory network characteristic for multicellular eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2507757  PMID: 18725928
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Escherichia coli OxyR modulation of bacteriophage Mu mom expression in dam+ cells can be attributed to its ability to bind hemimethylated Pmom promoter DNA. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(21):4385-4388.
Transcription of the bacteriophage Mu mom operon is strongly repressed by the host OxyR protein in dam - but not dam + cells. In this work we show that the extent of mom modification is sensitive to the relative levels of the Dam and OxyR proteins and OxyR appears to modulate the level of mom expression even in dam + cells. In vitro studies demonstrated that OxyR is capable of binding hemimethylated P mom , although its affinity is reduced slightly compared with unmethylated DNA. Thus, OxyR modulation of mom expression in dam + cells can be attributed to its ability to bind hemimethylated P mom DNA, the product of DNA replication.
PMCID: PMC147061  PMID: 9336472
11.  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
12.  Novel non-specific DNA adenine methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):2119-2130.
The mom gene of bacteriophage Mu encodes an enzyme that converts adenine to N6-(1-acetamido)-adenine in the phage DNA and thereby protects the viral genome from cleavage by a wide variety of restriction endonucleases. Mu-like prophage sequences present in Haemophilus influenzae Rd (FluMu), Neisseria meningitidis type A strain Z2491 (Pnme1) and H. influenzae biotype aegyptius ATCC 11116 do not possess a Mom-encoding gene. Instead, at the position occupied by mom in Mu they carry an unrelated gene that encodes a protein with homology to DNA adenine N6-methyltransferases (hin1523, nma1821, hia5, respectively). Products of the hin1523, hia5 and nma1821 genes modify adenine residues to N6-methyladenine, both in vitro and in vivo. All of these enzymes catalyzed extensive DNA methylation; most notably the Hia5 protein caused the methylation of 61% of the adenines in λ DNA. Kinetic analysis of oligonucleotide methylation suggests that all adenine residues in DNA, with the possible exception of poly(A)-tracts, constitute substrates for the Hia5 and Hin1523 enzymes. Their potential ‘sequence specificity’ could be summarized as AB or BA (where B = C, G or T). Plasmid DNA isolated from Escherichia coli cells overexpressing these novel DNA methyltransferases was resistant to cleavage by many restriction enzymes sensitive to adenine methylation.
PMCID: PMC3299994  PMID: 22102579
13.  Cloning and expression of the BalI restriction-modification system. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1996;24(12):2268-2270.
BalI, a type II restriction-modification (R-M) system from the bacterium, Brevibacterium albidum, recognizes the DNA sequence 5'-TGGCCA-3'. We cloned the genes encoding the BalI restriction endonuclease and methyltransferase and expressed them in Escherichia coli. The two genes were aligned tail-to-tail and their termination codons overlapped. BalI restriction endonuclease and methyltransferase comprise 260 and 280 amino acids, respectively, and have molecular weights of 29 043 and 31 999 Da. The amino acid sequence of BalI methyltransferase is similar to that of other m6A MTases, although it has been categorized as a m5C methyltransferase. A high expression system for the BalI restriction endonuclease was constructed in E. coli for the production of large quantities of enzyme.
PMCID: PMC145948  PMID: 8710495
14.  Methylation by a mutant T2 DNA [N6-adenine] methyltransferase expands the usage of RecA-assisted endonuclease (RARE) cleavage 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(7):1484-1490.
Properties of a mutant bacteriophage T2 DNA [N6-adenine] methyltransferase (T2 Dam MTase) have been investigated for its potential utilization in RecA-assisted restriction endonuclease (RARE) cleavage. Steady-state kinetic analyses with oligonucleotide duplexes revealed that, compared to wild-type T4 Dam, both wild-type T2 Dam and mutant T2 Dam P126S had a 1.5-fold higher kcat in methylating canonical GATC sites. Additionally, T2 Dam P126S showed increased efficiencies in methylation of non-canonical GAY sites relative to the wild-type enzymes. In agreement with these steady-state kinetic data, when bacteriophage λ DNA was used as a substrate, maximal protection from restriction nuclease cleavage in vitro was achieved on the sequences GATC, GATN and GACY, while protection of GACR sequences was less efficient. Collectively, our data suggest that T2 Dam P126S can modify 28 recognition sequences. The feasibility of using the mutant enzyme in RARE cleavage with BclI and EcoRV endonucleases has been shown on phage λ DNA and with BclI and DpnII endonucleases on yeast chromosomal DNA embedded in agarose.
PMCID: PMC31273  PMID: 11266550
15.  DNA Adenine Methylation Regulates Virulence Gene Expression in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(23):8160-8168.
Transcriptomic analyses during growth in Luria-Bertani medium were performed in strain SL1344 of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and in two isogenic derivatives lacking Dam methylase. More genes were repressed than were activated by Dam methylation (139 versus 37). Key genes that were differentially regulated by Dam methylation were verified independently. The largest classes of Dam-repressed genes included genes belonging to the SOS regulon, as previously described in Escherichia coli, and genes of the SOS-inducible Salmonella prophages ST64B, Gifsy-1, and Fels-2. Dam-dependent virulence-related genes were also identified. Invasion genes in pathogenicity island SPI-1 were activated by Dam methylation, while the fimbrial operon std was repressed by Dam methylation. Certain flagellar genes were repressed by Dam methylation, and Dam− mutants of S. enterica showed reduced motility. Altered expression patterns in the absence of Dam methylation were also found for the chemotaxis genes cheR (repressed by Dam) and STM3216 (activated by Dam) and for the Braun lipoprotein gene, lppB (activated by Dam). The requirement for DNA adenine methylation in the regulation of specific virulence genes suggests that certain defects of Salmonella Dam− mutants in the mouse model may be caused by altered patterns of gene expression.
PMCID: PMC1698197  PMID: 16997949
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Structure and Substrate Recognition of the Escherichia coli DNA Adenine Methyltransferase 
Journal of molecular biology  2006;358(2):559-570.
The structure of the Escherichia coli Dam DNA-(adenine-N6)-methyltransferase in complex with cognate DNA was determined at 1.89 Å resolution in the presence of S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine. DNA recognition and the dynamics of base-flipping were studied by site-directed mutagenesis, DNA methylation kinetics and fluorescence stopped-flow experiments. Our data illustrate the mechanism of coupling of DNA recognition and base-flipping. Contacts to the non-target strand in the second (3′) half of the GATC site are established by R124 to the fourth base-pair, and by L122 and P134 to the third base-pair. The aromatic ring of Y119 intercalates into the DNA between the second and third base-pairs, which is essential for base-flipping to occur. Compared to previous published structures of bacteriophage T4 Dam, three major new observations are made in E. coli Dam. (1) The first Gua is recognized by K9, removal of which abrogates the first base-pair recognition. (2) The flipped target Ade binds to the surface of EcoDam in the absence of S-adenosyl-l-methionine, which illustrates a possible intermediate in the base-flipping pathway. (3) The orphaned Thy residue displays structural flexibility by adopting an extrahelical or intrahelical position where it is in contact to N120.
PMCID: PMC2672621  PMID: 16524590
Dam methylation; GATC recognition; base flipping; bacterial virulence factor
19.  Structural Basis of Transcriptional Gene Silencing Mediated by Arabidopsis MOM1 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(2):e1002484.
Shifts between epigenetic states of transcriptional activity are typically correlated with changes in epigenetic marks. However, exceptions to this rule suggest the existence of additional, as yet uncharacterized, layers of epigenetic regulation. MOM1, a protein of 2,001 amino acids that acts as a transcriptional silencer, represents such an exception. Here we define the 82 amino acid domain called CMM2 (Conserved MOM1 Motif 2) as a minimal MOM1 fragment capable of transcriptional regulation. As determined by X-ray crystallography, this motif folds into an unusual hendecad-based coiled-coil. Structure-based mutagenesis followed by transgenic complementation tests in plants demonstrate that CMM2 and its dimerization are effective for transcriptional suppression at chromosomal loci co-regulated by MOM1 and the siRNA pathway but not at loci controlled by MOM1 in an siRNA–independent fashion. These results reveal a surprising separation of epigenetic activities that enable the single, large MOM1 protein to coordinate cooperating mechanisms of epigenetic regulation.
Author Summary
Epigenetic shifts in transcriptional activities are usually correlated with changes in chromatin properties and covalent modification of DNA and/or histones. There are, however, exceptional regulators that are able to switch epigenetic states without the apparent involvement of changes in chromatin or DNA modifications. MOM1 protein, derived from CHD3 chromatin remodelers, belongs to this group. Here we defined a very small domain of MOM1 (less than 5% of its total sequence) that is sufficient for epigenetic regulation. We solved the structure of this domain and found that it forms a dimer with each monomer consisting of unusual consecutive 11 amino-acid hendecad repeats folding into an antiparallel coiled-coil. In vivo experiments demonstrated that the formation of this coiled-coil is essential for silencing activity; however, it is effective only at loci co-silenced by MOM1 and small RNAs. At loci not controlled by small RNAs, the entire MOM1 protein is required. Our results demonstrate that a single epigenetic regulator is able to differentially use its domains to control diverse chromosomal targets. The acquisition of the coiled-coil domain of MOM1 reflects a neofunctionalization of CHD3 proteins, which allowed MOM1 to broaden its activity and to provide input into multiple epigenetic pathways.
PMCID: PMC3276543  PMID: 22346760
20.  Analysis of Global Gene Expression and Double-Strand-Break Formation in DNA Adenine Methyltransferase- and Mismatch Repair-Deficient Escherichia coli†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(20):7027-7037.
DNA adenine methylation by DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) in Escherichia coli plays an important role in processes such as DNA replication initiation, gene expression regulation, and mismatch repair. In addition, E. coli strains deficient in Dam are hypersensitive to DNA-damaging agents. We used genome microarrays to compare the transcriptional profiles of E. coli strains deficient in Dam and mismatch repair (dam, dam mutS, and mutS mutants). Our results show that >200 genes are expressed at a higher level in the dam strain, while an additional mutation in mutS suppresses the induction of many of the same genes. We also show by microarray and semiquantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR that both dam and dam mutS strains show derepression of LexA-regulated SOS genes as well as the up-regulation of other non-SOS genes involved in DNA repair. To correlate the level of SOS induction and the up-regulation of genes involved in recombinational repair with the level of DNA damage, we used neutral single-cell electrophoresis to determine the number of double-strand breaks per cell in each of the strains. We find that dam mutant E. coli strains have a significantly higher level of double-strand breaks than the other strains. We also observe a broad range in the number of double-strand breaks in dam mutant cells, with a minority of cells showing as many as 10 or more double-strand breaks. We propose that the up-regulation of recombinational repair in dam mutants allows for the efficient repair of double-strand breaks whose formation is dependent on functional mismatch repair.
PMCID: PMC1251628  PMID: 16199573
21.  Bax Activation Initiates the Assembly of a Multimeric Catalyst that Facilitates Bax Pore Formation in Mitochondrial Outer Membranes 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(9):e1001394.
Bax promotes mitochondrial permeabilization during apoptosis via a phase-transition-like event in the membrane and oligomerization of a catalyst molecule that facilitates Bax pore formation.
Bax/Bak-mediated mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) is essential for “intrinsic” apoptotic cell death. Published studies used synthetic liposomes to reveal an intrinsic pore-forming activity of Bax, but it is unclear how other mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM) proteins might facilitate this function. We carefully analyzed the kinetics of Bax-mediated pore formation in isolated MOMs, with some unexpected results. Native MOMs were more sensitive than liposomes to added Bax, and MOMs displayed a lag phase not observed with liposomes. Heat-labile MOM proteins were required for this enhanced response. A two-tiered mathematical model closely fit the kinetic data: first, Bax activation promotes the assembly of a multimeric complex, which then catalyzes the second reaction, Bax-dependent pore formation. Bax insertion occurred immediately upon Bax addition, prior to the end of the lag phase. Permeabilization kinetics were affected in a reciprocal manner by [cBid] and [Bax], confirming the “hit-and-run” hypothesis of cBid-induced direct Bax activation. Surprisingly, MOMP rate constants were linearly related to [Bax], implying that Bax acts non-cooperatively. Thus, the oligomeric catalyst is distinct from Bax. Moreover, contrary to common assumption, pore formation kinetics depend on Bax monomers, not oligomers. Catalyst formation exhibited a sharp transition in activation energy at ∼28°C, suggesting a role for membrane lipid packing. Furthermore, catalyst formation was strongly inhibited by chemical antagonists of the yeast mitochondrial fission protein, Dnm1. However, the mammalian ortholog, Drp1, was undetectable in mitochondrial outer membranes. Moreover, ATP and GTP were dispensable for MOMP. Thus, the data argue that oligomerization of a catalyst protein, distinct from Bax and Drp1, facilitates MOMP, possibly through a membrane-remodeling event.
Author Summary
Mitochondria are the key energy-producing structures inside cells, but are also crucial players in a common form of programmed cell death, apoptosis. A critical event in mitochondrion-driven apoptosis involves the formation of large pores in the mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM). These pores cause long-term damage to mitochondria and also allow mitochondrial proteins to escape and accelerate cell death. Previous studies have revealed that the protein Bax when activated can form pores in protein-free membranes and that it, along with Bak, is involved in the formation of mitochondrial pores, but the process remains unclear. We now show, however, that in naturally derived MOMs, Bax is assisted by another resident MOM protein, which we term the “catalyst,” and whose identity is still unknown. The mechanism involves two distinct stages. First, activated Bax activates the catalyst protein, causing multiple catalyst molecules to assemble into a larger structure (a complex). In the second stage, this catalyst complex in turn facilitates Bax-driven pore formation. Our data also reveal some unexpected details of the pore formation process; in particular, it appears that catalyst activation involves a physical change in the molecular arrangement of the membrane. Furthermore, contrary to what was previously assumed, pore formation does not require Bax molecules themselves to assemble together into larger complexes.
PMCID: PMC3457932  PMID: 23049480
22.  Epigenetic Gene Regulation in the Bacterial World 
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.
PMCID: PMC1594586  PMID: 16959970
23.  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
24.  Silencing of toxic gene expression by Fis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(10):4358-4367.
Bacteria and bacteriophages have evolved DNA modification as a strategy to protect their genomes. Mom protein of bacteriophage Mu modifies the phage DNA, rendering it refractile to numerous restriction enzymes and in turn enabling the phage to successfully invade a variety of hosts. A strong fortification, a combined activity of the phage and host factors, prevents untimely expression of mom and associated toxic effects. Here, we identify the bacterial chromatin architectural protein Fis as an additional player in this crowded regulatory cascade. Both in vivo and in vitro studies described here indicate that Fis acts as a transcriptional repressor of mom promoter. Further, our data shows that Fis mediates its repressive effect by denying access to RNA polymerase at mom promoter. We propose that a combined repressive effect of Fis and previously characterized negative regulatory factors could be responsible to keep the gene silenced most of the time. We thus present a new facet of Fis function in Mu biology. In addition to bringing about overall downregulation of Mu genome, it also ensures silencing of the advantageous but potentially lethal mom gene.
PMCID: PMC3378877  PMID: 22287621
25.  Transition from Nonspecific to Specific DNA Interactions along the Substrate-Recognition Pathway of Dam Methyltransferase 
Cell  2005;121(3):349-361.
DNA methyltransferases methylate target bases within specific nucleotide sequences. Three structures are described for bacteriophage T4 DNA-adenine methyltransferase (T4Dam) in ternary complexes with partially and fully specific DNA and a methyl-donor analog. We also report the effects of substitutions in the related Escherichia coli DNA methyltransferase (EcoDam), altering residues corresponding to those involved in specific interaction with the canonical GATC target sequence in T4Dam. We have identified two types of protein-DNA interactions: discriminatory contacts, which stabilize the transition state and accelerate methylation of the cognate site, and anti-discriminatory contacts, which do not significantly affect methylation of the cognate site but disfavor activity at noncognate sites. These structures illustrate the transition in enzyme-DNA interaction from nonspecific to specific interaction, suggesting that there is a temporal order for formation of specific contacts.
PMCID: PMC2656680  PMID: 15882618

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