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1.  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
2.  A real-time assay for CpG-specific cytosine-C5 methyltransferase activity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(9):e107.
A real-time assay for CpG-specific cytosine-C5 methyltransferase activity has been developed. The assay applies a break light oligonucleotide in which the methylation of an unmethylated 5′-CG-3′ site is enzymatically coupled to the development of a fluorescent signal. This sensitive assay can measure rates of DNA methylation down to 0.34 ± 0.06 fmol/s. The assay is reproducible, with a coefficient of variation over six independent measurements of 4.5%. Product concentration was accurately measured from fluorescence signals using a linear calibration curve, which achieved a goodness of fit (R2) above 0.98. The oligonucleotide substrate contains three C5-methylated cytosine residues and one unmethylated 5′-CG-3′ site. Methylation yields an oligonucleotide containing the optimal substrate for the restriction enzyme GlaI. Cleavage of the fully methylated oligonucleotide leads to separation of fluorophore from quencher, giving a proportional increase in fluorescence. This method has been used to assay activity of DNMT1, the principle maintenance methyltransferase in human cells, and for the kinetic characterization of the bacterial cytosine-C5 methyltransferase M.SssI. The assay has been shown to be suitable for the real-time monitoring of DNMT1 activity in a high-throughput format, with low background signal and the ability to obtain linear rates of methylation over long periods, making this a promising method of high-throughput screening for inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC2875032  PMID: 20139415
3.  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
4.  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
5.  Dam methylase from Escherichia coli: kinetic studies using modified DNA oligomers: hemimethylated substrates. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1995;23(18):3648-3655.
We have measured steady-state kinetics of the N6-adenine methyltransferase Dam Mtase using as substrates non-selfcomplementary tetradecamer duplexs (d[GCCGGATCTAGACG]-d[CGTCTAGATCC-GGC]) containing the hemimethylated GATC target sequence in one or the other strand and modifications in the GATC target sequence of the complementary strands. Modifications included substitution of guanine by hypoxanthine (I), thymine by uracil (U) or 5-ethyl-uracil (E) and adenine by 2,6-diamino-purine (D). Thermodynamic parameters were obtained from the concentration dependence of the melting temperature (Tm) of the duplexes. Large differences in DNA methylation of duplexes containing single dI for dG substitution of the Dam recognition site were observed compared with the canonical substrate, if the substitution involved the top strand (on the G.C rich side). Substitution in either strand by uracil (dU) or 5-ethyluracil (dE) resulted in small perturbation of the methylation patterns. When 2,6-diamino-purine (dD) replaced the adenine to be methylated, small, but significant methylation was observed. The kinetic parameters of the methylation reaction were compared with the thermodynamic free energies and significant correlation was observed.
PMCID: PMC307261  PMID: 7478992
6.  Pre-steady state kinetics of bacteriophage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase: interaction with native (GATC) or modified sites 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(21):4207-4211.
The DNA methyltransferase of bacteriophage T4 (T4 Dam MTase) recognizes the palindromic sequence GATC, and catalyzes transfer of the methyl group from S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) to the N6-position of adenine [generating N6-methyladenine and S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine (AdoHcy)]. Pre-steady state kinetic analysis revealed that the methylation rate constant kmeth for unmethylated and hemimethylated substrates (0.56 and 0.47 s–1, respectively) was at least 20-fold larger than the overall reaction rate constant kcat (0.023 s–1). This indicates that the release of products is the rate-limiting step in the reaction. Destabilization of the target-base pair did not alter the methylation rate, indicating that the rate of target nucleoside flipping does not limit kmeth. Preformed T4 Dam MTase–DNA complexes are less efficient than preformed T4 Dam MTase–AdoMet complexes in the first round of catalysis. Thus, this data is consistent with a preferred route of reaction for T4 Dam MTase in which AdoMet is bound first; this preferred reaction route is not observed with the DNA-[C5-cytosine]-MTases.
PMCID: PMC113137  PMID: 11058118
7.  A dual role for substrate S-adenosyl-l-methionine in the methylation reaction with bacteriophage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine]-methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(11):2361-2369.
The fluorescence of 2-aminopurine (2A)-substituted duplexes (contained in the GATC target site) was investigated by titration with T4 Dam DNA-(N6-adenine)-methyltransferase. With an unmethylated target (2A/A duplex) or its methylated derivative (2A/mA duplex), T4 Dam produced up to a 50-fold increase in fluorescence, consistent with 2A being flipped out of the DNA helix. Though neither S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine nor sinefungin had any significant effect, addition of substrate S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) sharply reduced the Dam-induced fluorescence with these complexes. In contrast, AdoMet had no effect on the fluorescence increase produced with an 2A/2A double-substituted duplex. Since the 2A/mA duplex cannot be methylated, the AdoMet-induced decrease in fluorescence cannot be due to methylation per se. We propose that T4 Dam alone randomly binds to the asymmetric 2A/A and 2A/mA duplexes, and that AdoMet induces an allosteric T4 Dam conformational change that promotes reorientation of the enzyme to the strand containing the native base. Thus, AdoMet increases enzyme binding-specificity, in addition to serving as the methyl donor. The results of pre-steady-state methylation kinetics are consistent with this model.
PMCID: PMC55703  PMID: 11376154
8.  Effect of base analog substitutions in the specific GATC site on binding and methylation of oligonucleotide duplexes by the bacteriophage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1999;27(4):1135-1144.
The interaction of the phage T4 Dam DNA-[N6-adenine] methyltransferase with 24mer synthetic oligonucleotide duplexes having different purine base substitutions in the palindromic recognition sequence, GATC, was investigated by means of gel shift and methyl transfer assays. The substitutions were introduced in either the upper or lower strand: guanine by 7-deazaguanine (G-->D) or 2-aminopurine (G-->N) and target adenine by purine (A-->P) or 2-aminopurine (A-->N). The effects of each base modification on binding/methylation were approximately equivalent for both strands. G-->D and G-->N substitutions resulted in a sharp decrease in binary complex formation. This suggests that T4 Dam makes hydrogen bonds with either the N7- or O6-keto groups (or both) in forming the complex. In contrast, A-->P and A-->N substitutions were much more tolerant for complex formation. This confirms our earlier observations that the presence of intact 5'-G:C base pairs at both ends of the methylation site is critical, but that base substitutions within the central A:T base pairs show less inhibition of complex formation. Addition of T4 Dam to a complete substrate mixture resulted in a burst of [3H]methylated product. In all cases the substrate dependencies of bursts and methylation rates were proportional to each other. For the perfect 24mer k cat = 0.014/s and K m = 7.7 nM was obtained. In contrast to binary complex formation the two guanine substitutions exerted relatively minor effects on catalytic turnover (the k cat was reduced at most 2. 5-fold), while the two adenine substitutions showed stronger effects (5- to 15-fold reduction in k cat). The effects of base analog substitutions on K m(DNA) were more variable: A-->P (decreased); A-->N and G-->D (unchanged); G-->N (increased).
PMCID: PMC148295  PMID: 9927748
9.  Characterization of a dam Mutant of Serratia marcescens and Nucleotide Sequence of the dam Region 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(13):3880-3885.
The DNA of Serratia marcescens has N6-adenine methylation in GATC sequences. Among 2-aminopurine-sensitive mutants isolated from S. marcescens Sr41, one was identified which lacked GATC methylation. The mutant showed up to 30-fold increased spontaneous mutability and enhanced mutability after treatment with 2-aminopurine, ethyl methanesulfonate, or UV light. The gene (dam) coding for the adenine methyltransferase (Dam enzyme) of S. marcescens was identified on a gene bank plasmid which alleviated the 2-aminopurine sensitivity and the higher mutability of a dam-13::Tn9 mutant of Escherichia coli. Nucleotide sequencing revealed that the deduced amino acid sequence of Dam (270 amino acids; molecular mass, 31.3 kDa) has 72% identity to the Dam enzyme of E. coli. The dam gene is located between flanking genes which are similar to those found to the sides of the E. coli dam gene. The results of complementation studies indicated that like Dam of E. coli and unlike Dam of Vibrio cholerae, the Dam enzyme of S. marcescens plays an important role in mutation avoidance by allowing the mismatch repair enzymes to discriminate between the parental and newly synthesized strands during correction of replication errors.
PMCID: PMC93874  PMID: 10383952
10.  Characterizing DNA Methyltransferases With An Ultrasensitive Luciferase-Linked Continuous Assay 
Analytical chemistry  2011;83(12):4996-5004.
DNA (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases (DNMTs) catalyze the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet) to the 5-position of cytosine residues and thereby silence transcription of regulated genes. DNMTs are important epigenetic targets. However, isolated DNMTs are weak catalysts and are difficult to assay. We report an ultrasensitive luciferase-linked continuous assay that converts the S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine product of DNA methylation to a quantifiable luminescent signal. Results with this assay are compared with the commonly used DNA labeling from [methyl-3H]AdoMet. A 5′-methylthioadenosine-adenosylhomocysteine nucleosidase is used to hydrolyze AdoHcy to adenine. Adenine phosphoribosyl transferase converts adenine to AMP and pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase converts AMP to ATP. Firefly luciferase gives a stable luminescent signal that results from continuous AMP recycling to ATP. This assay exhibits a broad dynamic range (0.1–1000 pmol of AdoHcy). The rapid response time permits continuous assays of DNA methylation detected by light output. The assay is suitable for high-throughput screening of chemical libraries with DNMT activity. The kinetic properties of human and bacterial CpG methyltransferases are characterized using this assay. Human catalytic domain DNMT3b activation by DNMT3L is shown to involve two distinct kinetic states that alter kcat but not Km for AdoMet. The assay is shown to be robust in the presence of high concentrations of the pyrimidine analogues 5-azacytidine and 5-azacytosine.
PMCID: PMC3115440  PMID: 21545095
DNA methyltransferase; DNMT; CpG islands; luciferase; epigenetics; S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine
11.  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
12.  Substrate binding in vitro and kinetics of RsrI [N6-adenine] DNA methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(20):3962-3971.
RsrI [N6-adenine] DNA methyltransferase (M·RsrI), which recognizes GAATTC and is a member of a restriction–modification system in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, was purified to >95% homogeneity using a simplified procedure involving two ion exchange chromatographic steps. Electrophoretic gel retardation assays with purified M·RsrI were performed on unmethylated, hemimethylated, dimethylated or non-specific target DNA duplexes (25 bp) in the presence of sinefungin, a potent inhibitory analog of AdoMet. M·RsrI binding was affected by the methylation status of the DNA substrate and was enhanced by the presence of the cofactor analog. M·RsrI bound DNA substrates in the presence of sinefungin with decreasing affinities: hemimethylated > unmethylated > dimethylated >> non-specific DNA. Gel retardation studies with DNA substrates containing an abasic site substituted for the target adenine DNA provided evidence consistent with M·RsrI extruding the target base from the duplex. Consistent with such base flipping, an ∼1.7-fold fluorescence intensity increase was observed upon stoichiometric addition of M·RsrI to hemimethylated DNA containing the fluorescent analog 2-aminopurine in place of the target adenine. Pre-steady-state kinetic and isotope- partitioning experiments revealed that the enzyme displays burst kinetics, confirmed the catalytic competence of the M·RsrI–AdoMet complex and eliminated the possibility of an ordered mechanism where DNA is required to bind first. The equilibrium dissociation constants for AdoMet, AdoHcy and sinefungin were determined using an intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence-quenching assay.
PMCID: PMC110777  PMID: 11024176
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  Formation of DNA Methylation Patterns: Nonmethylated GATC Sequences in gut and pap Operons 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(22):5913-5920.
Most of the adenine residues in GATC sequences in the Escherichia coli chromosome are methylated by the enzyme deoxyadenosine methyltransferase (Dam). However, at least 20 GATC sequences remain nonmethylated throughout the cell cycle. Here we examined how the DNA methylation patterns of GATC sequences within the regulatory regions of the pyelonephritis-associated pilus (pap) operon and the glucitol utilization (gut) operon were formed. The results obtained with an in vitro methylation protection assay showed that the addition of the leucine-responsive regulatory protein (Lrp) to pap DNA was sufficient to protect the two GATC sequences in the pap regulatory region, GATC-I and GATC-II, from methylation by Dam. This finding was consistent with previously published data showing that Lrp was essential for methylation protection of these DNA sites in vivo. Methylation protection also occurred at a GATC site (GATC-44.5) centered 44.5 bp upstream of the transcription start site of the gutABD operon. Two proteins, GutR and the catabolite gene activator protein (CAP), bound to DNA sites overlapping the GATC-44.5-containing region of the gutABD operon. GutR, an operon-specific repressor, was essential for methylation protection in vivo, and binding of GutR protected GATC-44.5 from methylation in vitro. In contrast, binding of CAP at a site overlapping GATC-44.5 did not protect this site from methylation. Mutational analyses indicated that gutABD gene regulation was not controlled by methylation of GATC-44.5, in contrast to regulation of Pap pilus expression, which is directly controlled by methylation of the pap GATC-I and GATC-II sites.
PMCID: PMC107665  PMID: 9811649
17.  Sequence and substrate specificity of isolated DNA methylases from Escherichia coli C. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1983;153(1):274-280.
Two DNA methylase activities of Escherichia coli C, the mec (designates DNA-cytosine-methylase gene, which is also designated dcm) and dam gene products, were physically separated by DEAE-cellulose column chromatography. The sequence and substrate specificity of the two enzymes were studied in vitro. The experiments revealed that both enzymes show their expected sequence specificity under in vitro conditions, methylating symmetrically on both DNA strands. The mec enzyme methylates exclusively the internal cytosine residue of CCATGG sequences, and the dam enzyme methylates adenine residues at GATC sites. Substrate specificity experiments revealed that both enzymes methylate in vitro unmethylated duplex DNA as efficiently as hemimethylated DNA. The results of these experiments suggest that the methylation at a specific site takes place by two independent events. A methyl group in a site on one strand of the DNA does not facilitate the methylation of the same site on the opposite strand. With the dam methylase it was found that the enzyme is incapable of methylating GATC sites located at the ends of DNA molecules.
PMCID: PMC217366  PMID: 6336735
18.  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
19.  Comparative studies of the phage T2 and T4 DNA (N6-adenine)methyltransferases: amino acid changes that affect catalytic activity. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(10):3239-3243.
The bacteriophage T2 and T4 dam genes code for a DNA (N6-adenine)methyltransferase (MTase). Nonglucosylated, hydroxymethylcytosine-containing T2gt- virion DNA has a higher level of methylation than T4gt- virion DNA does. To investigate the basis for this difference, we compared the intracellular enzyme levels following phage infection as well as the in vitro intrinsic methylation capabilities of purified T2 and T4 Dam MTases. Results from Western blotting (immunoblotting) showed that the same amounts of MTase protein were produced after infection with T2 and T4. Kinetic analyses with purified homogeneous enzymes showed that the two MTases had similar Km values for the methyl donor, S-adenosyl-L-methionine, and for substrate DNA. In contrast, they had different k(cat) values (twofold higher for T2 Dam MTase). We suggest that this difference can account for the ability of T2 Dam to methylate viral DNA in vivo to a higher level than does T4 Dam. Since the T2 and T4 MTases differ at only three amino acid residues (at positions 20 [T4, Ser; T2, Pro], 26 [T4, Asn; T2, Asp], and 188 [T4, Asp; T2, Glu]), we have produced hybrid proteins to determine which residue(s) is responsible for increased catalytic activity. The results of these analyses showed that the residues at positions 20 and 26 are responsible for the different k(cat) values of the two MTases for both canonical and noncanonical sites. Moreover, a single substitution of either residue 20 or 26 was sufficient to increase the k(cat) of T4 Dam.
PMCID: PMC179102  PMID: 9150219
20.  Overproduction of DNA Adenine Methyltransferase Alters Motility, Invasion, and the Lipopolysaccharide O-Antigen Composition of Yersinia enterocolitica▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(10):4990-4997.
DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) not only regulates basic cellular functions but also interferes with the proper expression of virulence factors in various pathogens. We showed previously that for the human pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica, overproduction of Dam results in increased invasion of epithelial cells. Since invasion and motility are coordinately regulated in Y. enterocolitica, we analyzed the motility of a Dam-overproducing (DamOP) strain and found it to be highly motile. In DamOP strains, the operon encoding the master regulator of flagellum biosynthesis, flhDC, is upregulated. We show that the increased invasion is not due to enhanced expression of known and putative Y. enterocolitica invasion and adhesion factors, such as Inv, YadA, Ail, Myf fibrils, Pil, or Flp pili. However, overproduction of Dam no longer results in increased invasion for an inv mutant strain, indicating that Inv is necessary for increased invasion after overproduction of Dam. Since we show that overproduction of Dam results in an increased amount of rough lipopolysaccharide (LPS) molecules lacking O-antigen side chains, this implies that reduced steric hindrance by LPS might contribute to increased invasion by a Y. enterocolitica DamOP strain. Our data add an important new aspect to the various virulence-associated phenotypes influenced by DNA methylation in Y. enterocolitica and indicate that Dam targets regulatory processes modulating the composition and function of the bacterial surface.
PMCID: PMC2044514  PMID: 17682042
21.  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
22.  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
23.  An Epigenetic Switch Involving Overlapping Fur and DNA Methylation Optimizes Expression of a Type VI Secretion Gene Cluster 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002205.
Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) are macromolecular machines of the cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria responsible for bacterial killing and/or virulence towards different host cells. Here, we characterized the regulatory mechanism underlying expression of the enteroagregative Escherichia coli sci1 T6SS gene cluster. We identified Fur as the main regulator of the sci1 cluster. A detailed analysis of the promoter region showed the presence of three GATC motifs, which are target of the DNA adenine methylase Dam. Using a combination of reporter fusion, gel shift, and in vivo and in vitro Dam methylation assays, we dissected the regulatory role of Fur and Dam-dependent methylation. We showed that the sci1 gene cluster expression is under the control of an epigenetic switch depending on methylation: fur binding prevents methylation of a GATC motif, whereas methylation at this specific site decreases the affinity of Fur for its binding box. A model is proposed in which the sci1 promoter is regulated by iron availability, adenine methylation, and DNA replication.
Author Summary
DNA methylation plays an important role in the regulation of genes involved in assembly of cell surface adhesins or appendages. Methylation at a GATC motif by the Dam methylase influences binding of transcriptional regulators, leading to variation in the gene expression pattern. In several cases, this may lead to different cell subpopulations allowing a rapid adaptation to varying environments. In this work, we uncover the regulatory mechanism controlling expression of the sci1 Type VI secretion gene cluster in entero-aggregative Escherichia coli, which encodes a structure required for inter-bacterial interaction. We showed that this gene cluster is repressed by Fur in iron-replete conditions and that Fur binding on the promoter prevents methylation of a GATC motif. In iron-limited conditions, Fur is relieved from the promoter allowing expression of the gene cluster and methylation of the GATC motif. Methylation prevents de novo Fur binding allowing constitutive expression. Our findings support a model in which the expression of the Type VI secretion gene cluster is regulated by a non-stochastic epigenetic switch: switch from the OFF to ON phases depends on iron availability whereas the ON to OFF switch depends on DNA replication and competition between Dam-dependent methylation and Fur binding.
PMCID: PMC3145626  PMID: 21829382
24.  Altered Ca2+ Regulation of Yop Secretion in Yersinia enterocolitica after DNA Adenine Methyltransferase Overproduction Is Mediated by Clp-Dependent Degradation of LcrG 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(20):7072-7081.
DNA methylation by the DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) interferes with the coordinated expression of virulence functions in an increasing number of pathogens. While analyzing the effect of Dam on the virulence of the human pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica, we observed type III secretion of Yop effector proteins under nonpermissive conditions. Dam alters the Ca2+ regulation of Yop secretion but does not affect the temperature regulation of Yop/Ysc expression. The phenotype is different from that of classical “Ca2+-blind” mutants of Yersinia, as Dam-overproducing (DamOP) strains still translocate Yops polarly into eukaryotic cells. Although transcription of the lcrGV and yopN-tyeA operons is slightly upregulated, LcrG is absent from lysates of DamOP bacteria, while the amounts of YopN and TyeA are not changed. We present evidence that clpXP expression increases after Dam overproduction and that the ClpP protease then degrades LcrG, thereby releasing a block in type III secretion. This is the first example of posttranslational regulation of type III secretion by the Clp protease and adds a new flavor to the complex regulatory mechanisms underlying the controlled release of effector proteins from bacterial cells.
PMCID: PMC1636222  PMID: 17015646
25.  DNA Methylation 
EcoSal Plus  2014;2014:10.1128/ecosalplus.ESP-0003-2013.
The DNA of E. coli contains 19,120 6-methyladenines and 12,045 5-methylcytosines in addition to the four regular bases and these are formed by the postreplicative action of three DNA methyltransferases. The majority of the methylated bases are formed by the Dam and Dcm methyltransferases encoded by the dam (DNA adenine methyltransferase) and dcm (DNA cytosine methyltransferase) genes. Although not essential, Dam methylation is important for strand discrimination during repair of replication errors, controlling the frequency of initiation of chromosome replication at oriC, and regulation of transcription initiation at promoters containing GATC sequences. In contrast, there is no known function for Dcm methylation although Dcm recognition sites constitute sequence motifs for Very Short Patch repair of T/G base mismatches. In certain bacteria (e.g., Vibrio cholerae, Caulobacter crescentus) adenine methylation is essential and in C. crescentus, it is important for temporal gene expression which, in turn, is required for coordinating chromosome initiation, replication and division. In practical terms, Dam and Dcm methylation can inhibit restriction enzyme cleavage; decrease transformation frequency in certain bacteria; decrease the stability of short direct repeats; are necessary for site-directed mutagenesis; and to probe eukaryotic structure and function.
PMCID: PMC4231299  PMID: 25405210

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