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1.  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
2.  Plasmid-Controlled Variation in the Content of Methylated Bases in Bacteriophage Lambda Deoxyribonucleic Acid 
Journal of Virology  1972;10(3):356-361.
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.
PMCID: PMC356474  PMID: 4561202
3.  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
4.  Bacteriophage Mu-induced modification of DNA is dependent upon a host function. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1978;136(1):423-428.
The DNA of bacteriophage Mu, extracted from induced lysates, is partially resistant to digestion by the endonuclease BalI. This modification of DNA is controlled by the Mu modification function (mom), which acts in conjunction with the dam (DNA-adenine methylation) function of Escherichia coli. Since the BalI recognition site is apparently different from the dam recognition site, these results imply that either the specificity of the dam function is changed by the mom function or the mom function requires the dam function for its activity.
PMCID: PMC218675  PMID: 361700
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Deoxyribonucleic acid methylation and chromatin organization in Tetrahymena thermophila. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1981;1(7):600-608.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the transcriptionally active macronucleus of Tetrahymena thermophila is methylated at the N6 position of adenine to produce methyladenine (MeAde); approximately 1 in every 125 adenine residues (0.8 mol%) is methylated. Transcriptionally inert micronuclear DNA is not methylated (< or = 0.01 mol% MeAde; M. A. Gorovsky, S. Hattman, and G. L. Pleger, J. Cell Biol. 56:697-701, 1973). There is no detectable cytosine methylation in macronuclei in Tetrahymena DNA (< or = 0.01 mol% 5-methylcytosine). MeAde-containing DNA sequences in macronuclei are preferentially digested by both staphylococcal nuclease and pancreatic deoxyribonuclease I. In contrast, there is no preferential release of MeAde during digestion of purified DNA. These results indicate that MeAde residues are predominantly located in "linker DNA" and perhaps have a function in transcription. Pulse-chase studies showed that labeled MeAde remains preferentially in linker DNA during subsequent rounds of DNA replication; i.e., there is little, if any, movement of nucleosomes during chromatin replication. This implies that nucleosomes may be phased with respect to DNA sequence.
PMCID: PMC369708  PMID: 9279374
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Identification of Mom12 and Mom13, two novel modifier loci of ApcMin-mediated intestinal tumorigenesis 
Cell Cycle  2011;10(7):1092-1099.
Colorectal cancer is a heterogeneous disease resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The C57BL/6J (B6) ApcMin/+ mouse develops polyps throughout the gastrointestinal tract and has been a valuable model for understanding the genetic basis of intestinal tumorigenesis. ApcMin/+ mice have been used to study known oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes on a controlled genetic background. These studies often utilize congenic knockout alleles, which can carry an unknown amount of residual donor DNA. The ApcMin model has also been used to identify modifer loci, known as Modifier of Min (Mom) loci, which alter ApcMin-mediated intestinal tumorigenesis. B6 mice carrying a knockout allele generated in WW6 embryonic stem cells were crossed to B6 ApcMin/+ mice to determine the effect on polyp multiplicity. The newly generated colony developed significantly more intestinal polyps than ApcMin/+ controls. Polyp multiplicity did not correlate with inheritance of the knockout allele, suggesting the presence of one or more modifier loci segregating in the colony. Genotyping of simple sequence length polymorphism (SSLP) markers revealed residual 129X1/SvJ genomic DNA within the congenic region of the parental knockout line. An analysis of polyp multiplicity data and SSLP genotyping indicated the presence of two Mom loci in the colony: (1) Mom12, a dominant modifier linked to the congenic region on chromosome 6 and (2) Mom13, which is unlinked to the congenic region and whose effect is masked by Mom12. The identification of Mom12 and Mom13 demonstrates the potential problems resulting from residual heterozygosity present in congenic lines.
PMCID: PMC3100885  PMID: 21386660
adenomatous polyposis coli; modifier of min; congenic mice; caveolin-1; cancer susceptibility
13.  Prediction of novel families of enzymes involved in oxidative and other complex modifications of bases in nucleic acids 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2009;8(11):1698-1710.
Modified bases in nucleic acids present a layer of information that directs biological function over and beyond the coding capacity of the conventional bases. While a large number of modified bases have been identified, many of the enzymes generating them still remain to be discovered. Recently, members of the 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenase superfamily, which modify diverse substrates from small molecules to biopolymers, were predicted and subsequently confirmed to catalyze oxidative modification of bases in nucleic acids. Of these, two distinct families, namely the AlkB and the kinetoplastid base J binding proteins (JBP) catalyze in situ hydroxylation of bases in nucleic acids. Using sensitive computational analysis of sequences, structures and contextual information from genomic structure and protein domain architectures, we report five distinct families of 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenase that we predict to be involved in nucleic acid modifications. Among the DNA-modifying families, we show that the dioxygenase domains of the kinetoplastid base J-binding proteins belong to a larger family that includes the Tet proteins, prototyped by the human oncogene Tet1, and proteins from basidiomycete fungi, chlorophyte algae, heterolobosean amoeboflagellates and bacteriophages. We present evidence that some of these proteins are likely to be involved in oxidative modification of the 5-methyl group of cytosine leading to the formation of 5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine. The Tet/JBP homologs from basidiomycete fungi such as Laccaria and Coprinopsis show large lineage-specific expansions and a tight linkage with genes encoding a novel and distinct family of predicted transposases, and a member of the Maelstrom-like HMG family. We propose that these fungal members are part of a mobile transposon. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a eukaryotic transposable element that encodes its own DNA-modification enzyme with a potential regulatory role. Through a wider analysis of other poorly characterized DNA-modifying enzymes we also show that the phage Mu Mom-like proteins, which catalyze the N6-carbamoylmethylation of adenines, are also linked to diverse families of bacterial transposases, suggesting that DNA modification by transposable elements might have a more general presence than previously appreciated. Among the other families of 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenases identified in this study, one which is found in algae, is predicted to mainly comprise of RNA-modifying enzymes and shows a striking diversity in protein domain architectures suggesting the presence of RNA modifications with possibly unique adaptive roles. The results presented here are likely to provide the means for future investigation of unexpected epigenetic modifications, such as hydroxymethyl cytosine, that could profoundly impact our understanding of gene regulation and processes such as DNA demethylation.
PMCID: PMC2995806  PMID: 19411852
DNA methylation; dioxygenases; mom; transposons; bacteriophage; AlkB; hydroxymethylcytosine; demethylation; algae; RNA modification; CXXC domain
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
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.  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
19.  Genome of Enterobacteriophage Lula/phi80 and Insights into Its Ability To Spread in the Laboratory Environment 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(24):6802-6817.
The novel temperate bacteriophage Lula, contaminating laboratory Escherichia coli strains, turned out to be the well-known lambdoid phage phi80. Our previous studies revealed that two characteristics of Lula/phi80 facilitate its spread in the laboratory environment: cryptic lysogen productivity and stealthy infectivity. To understand the genetics/genomics behind these traits, we sequenced and annotated the Lula/phi80 genome, encountering an E. coli-toxic gene revealed as a gap in the sequencing contig and analyzing a few genes in more detail. Lula/phi80's genome layout copies that of lambda, yet homology with other lambdoid phages is mostly limited to the capsid genes. Lula/phi80's DNA is resistant to cutting with several restriction enzymes, suggesting DNA modification, but deletion of the phage's damL gene, coding for DNA adenine methylase, did not make DNA cuttable. The damL mutation of Lula/phi80 also did not change the phage titer in lysogen cultures, whereas the host dam mutation did increase it almost 100-fold. Since the high phage titer in cultures of Lula/phi80 lysogens is apparently in response to endogenous DNA damage, we deleted the only Lula/phi80 SOS-controlled gene, dinL. We found that dinL mutant lysogens release fewer phage in response to endogenous DNA damage but are unchanged in their response to external DNA damage. The toxic gene of Lula/phi80, gamL, encodes an inhibitor of the host ATP-dependent exonucleases, RecBCD and SbcCD. Its own antidote, agt, apparently encoding a modifier protein, was found nearby. Interestingly, Lula/phi80 lysogens are recD and sbcCD phenocopies, so GamL and Agt are part of lysogenic conversion.
PMCID: PMC3510586  PMID: 23042999
20.  Computational identification of novel biochemical systems involved in oxidation, glycosylation and other complex modifications of bases in DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(16):7635-7655.
Discovery of the TET/JBP family of dioxygenases that modify bases in DNA has sparked considerable interest in novel DNA base modifications and their biological roles. Using sensitive sequence and structure analyses combined with contextual information from comparative genomics, we computationally characterize over 12 novel biochemical systems for DNA modifications. We predict previously unidentified enzymes, such as the kinetoplastid J-base generating glycosyltransferase (and its homolog GREB1), the catalytic specificity of bacteriophage TET/JBP proteins and their role in complex DNA base modifications. We also predict the enzymes involved in synthesis of hypermodified bases such as alpha-glutamylthymine and alpha-putrescinylthymine that have remained enigmatic for several decades. Moreover, the current analysis suggests that bacteriophages and certain nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses contain an unexpectedly diverse range of DNA modification systems, in addition to those using previously characterized enzymes such as Dam, Dcm, TET/JBP, pyrimidine hydroxymethylases, Mom and glycosyltransferases. These include enzymes generating modified bases such as deazaguanines related to queuine and archaeosine, pyrimidines comparable with lysidine, those derived using modified S-adenosyl methionine derivatives and those using TET/JBP-generated hydroxymethyl pyrimidines as biosynthetic starting points. We present evidence that some of these modification systems are also widely dispersed across prokaryotes and certain eukaryotes such as basidiomycetes, chlorophyte and stramenopile alga, where they could serve as novel epigenetic marks for regulation or discrimination of self from non-self DNA. Our study extends the role of the PUA-like fold domains in recognition of modified nucleic acids and predicts versions of the ASCH and EVE domains to be novel ‘readers’ of modified bases in DNA. These results open opportunities for the investigation of the biology of these systems and their use in biotechnology.
PMCID: PMC3763556  PMID: 23814188
21.  Adenine methylation may contribute to endosymbiont selection in a clonal aphid population 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):999.
The pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum has two modes of reproduction: parthenogenetic during the spring and summer and sexual in autumn. This ability to alternate between reproductive modes and the emergence of clonal populations under favorable conditions make this organism an interesting model for genetic and epigenetic studies. The pea aphid hosts different types of endosymbiotic bacteria within bacteriocytes which help the aphids survive and adapt to new environmental conditions and habitats. The obligate endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola has a drastically reduced and stable genome, whereas facultative endosymbionts such as Regiella insecticola have large and dynamic genomes due to phages, mobile elements and high levels of genetic recombination. In previous work, selection toward cold adaptation resulted in the appearance of parthenogenetic A. pisum individuals characterized by heavier weights and remarkable green pigmentation.
Six adenine-methylated DNA fragments were isolated from genomic DNA (gDNA) extracted from the cold-induced green variant of A. pisum using deoxyadenosine methylase (Dam) by digesting the gDNA with the restriction enzymes DpnI and DpnII, which recognize the methylated and unmethylated GATC sites, respectively. The six resultant fragments did not match any sequence in the A. pisum or Buchnera genomes, implying that they came from facultative endosymbionts. The A1 fragment encoding a putative transposase and the A6 fragment encoding a putative helicase were selected for further comparison between the two A. pisum variants (green and orange) based on Dam analysis followed by PCR amplification. An association between adenine methylation and the two A. pisum variants was demonstrated by higher adenine methylation levels on both genes in the green variant as compared to the orange one.
Temperature selection may affect the secondary endosymbiont and the sensitive Dam involved in the survival and adaptation of aphids to cold temperatures. There is a high degree of adenine methylation at the GATC sites of the endosymbiont genes at 8°C, an effect that disappears at 22°C. We suggest that endosymbionts can be modified or selected to increase host fitness under unfavorable climatic conditions, and that the phenotype of the newly adapted aphids can be inherited.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-999) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4246565  PMID: 25406741
Acyrthosiphon pisum; Bacteriocyte; Facultative/secondary bacterium; Epigenetic; Deoxyadenosine methylase (Dam)
22.  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
23.  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
24.  Interaction of the phage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase with oligonucleotides containing native or modified (defective) recognition sites. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(21):4393-4399.
The DNA-[N 6-adenine]-methyltransferase (Dam MTase) of phage T4 catalyzes methyl group transfer from S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) to the N6-position of adenine in the palindromic sequence, GATC. We have used a gel shift assay to monitor complex formation between T4 Dam and various synthetic duplex oligonucleotides, either native or modified/defective. The results are summarized as follows. (i) T4 Dam bound with approximately 100-fold higher affinity to a 20mer specific (GATC-containing) duplex containing the canonical palindromic methylation sequence, GATC, than to a non-specific duplex containing another palindrome, GTAC. (ii) Compared with the unmethylated duplex, the hemimethylated 20mer specific duplex had a slightly increased ( approximately 2-fold) ability to form complexes with T4 Dam. (iii) No stable complex was formed with a synthetic 12mer specific (GATC-containing) duplex, although T4 Dam can methylate it. This indicates that there is no relation between formation of a catalytically competent 12mer-Dam complex and one stable to gel electrophoresis. (iv) Formation of a stable complex did not require that both strands be contiguous or completely complementary. Absence of a single internucleotide phosphate strongly reduced complex formation only when missing between the T and C residues. This suggests that if T4 Dam makes critical contact(s) with a backbone phosphate(s), then the one between T and C is the only likely candidate. Having only one half of the recognition site intact on one strand was sufficient for stable complex formation provided that the 5'G.C base-pairs be present at both ends of the palindromic, GATC. Since absence of either a G or C abolished T4 Dam binding, we conclude that both strands are recognized by T4 Dam.
PMCID: PMC147042  PMID: 9336474
25.  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

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