Identifying population structure forms an important basis for genetic and evolutionary studies. Most current methods to identify population structure have limitations in analyzing haplotypes and recombination across the genome. Recently, a method of chromosome painting in silico has been developed to overcome these shortcomings and has been applied to multiple human genome sequences. This method detects the genome-wide transfer of DNA sequence chunks through homologous recombination. Here, we apply it to the frequently recombining bacterial species Helicobacter pylori that has infected Homo sapiens since their birth in Africa and shows wide phylogeographic divergence. Multiple complete genome sequences were analyzed including sequences from Okinawa, Japan, that we recently sequenced. The newer method revealed a finer population structure than revealed by a previous method that examines only MLST housekeeping genes or a phylogenetic network analysis of the core genome. Novel subgroups were found in Europe, Amerind, and East Asia groups. Examination of genetic flux showed some singleton strains to be hybrids of subgroups and revealed evident signs of population admixture in Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia. We expect this approach to further our understanding of intraspecific bacterial evolution by revealing population structure at a finer scale.
fineSTRUCTURE; homologous recombination; phylogenetic network; human evolution; Helicobacter pylori
DNA methylation is one of the best studied epigenetic modifications observed in prokaryotes as well as eukaryotes. It affects nearby gene expression. Most DNA methylation reactions in prokaryotes are catalyzed by a DNA methyltransferase, the modification enzyme of a restriction-modification (RM) system. Its target recognition domain (TRD) recognizes a specific DNA sequence for methylation. In this commentary, we review recent evidence for movement of TRDs between non-orthologous genes and movement within a gene. These movements are likely mediated by DNA recombination machinery, and are expected to alter the methylation status of a genome. Such alterations potentially lead to changes in global gene expression pattern and various phenotypes. The targets of natural selection in adaptive evolution might be these diverse methylomes rather than diverse genome sequences, the target according to the current paradigm in biology. This “epigenetics-driven adaptive evolution” hypothesis can explain several observations in the evolution of prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
DNA methylation; Helicobacter pylori; domain movement; epigenetics; evolution; genome evolution; methylome; protein evolution; restriction-modification
Comparisons of proteins show that they evolve through the movement of domains. However, in many cases, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we observed the movements of DNA recognition domains between non-orthologous proteins within a prokaryote genome. Restriction–modification (RM) systems, consisting of a sequence-specific DNA methyltransferase and a restriction enzyme, contribute to maintenance/evolution of genomes/epigenomes. RM systems limit horizontal gene transfer but are themselves mobile. We compared Type III RM systems in Helicobacter pylori genomes and found that target recognition domain (TRD) sequences are mobile, moving between different orthologous groups that occupy unique chromosomal locations. Sequence comparisons suggested that a likely underlying mechanism is movement through homologous recombination of similar DNA sequences that encode amino acid sequence motifs that are conserved among Type III DNA methyltransferases. Consistent with this movement, incongruence was observed between the phylogenetic trees of TRD regions and other regions in proteins. Horizontal acquisition of diverse TRD sequences was suggested by detection of homologs in other Helicobacter species and distantly related bacterial species. One of these RM systems in H. pylori was inactivated by insertion of another RM system that likely transferred from an oral bacterium. TRD movement represents a novel route for diversification of DNA-interacting proteins.
The nature of a species remains a fundamental and controversial question. The era of genome/metagenome sequencing has intensified the debate in prokaryotes because of extensive horizontal gene transfer. In this study, we conducted a genome-wide survey of outcrossing homologous recombination in the highly sexual bacterial species Helicobacter pylori. We conducted multiple genome alignment and analyzed the entire data set of one-to-one orthologous genes for its global strains. We detected mosaic structures due to repeated recombination events and discordant phylogenies throughout the genomes of this species. Most of these genes including the “core” set of genes and horizontally transferred genes showed at least one recombination event. Taking into account the relationship between the nucleotide diversity and the minimum number of recombination events per nucleotide, we evaluated the recombination rate in every gene. The rate appears constant across the genome, but genes with a particularly high or low recombination rate were detected. Interestingly, genes with high recombination included those for DNA transformation and for basic cellular functions, such as biosynthesis and metabolism. Several highly divergent genes with a high recombination rate included those for host interaction, such as outer membrane proteins and lipopolysaccharide synthesis. These results provide a global picture of genome-wide distribution of outcrossing homologous recombination in a bacterial species for the first time, to our knowledge, and illustrate how a species can be shaped by mutual homologous recombination.
homologous recombination; horizontal transfer; population genomics; species; Helicobacter pylori
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes, essential to all forms of life, have been viewed as highly conserved and evolutionarily stable, partly because very little is known about their natural variations. Here, we explored large-scale variations of rRNA genes through bioinformatic analyses of available complete bacterial genomic sequences with an emphasis on formation mechanisms and biological significance. Interestingly, we found bacterial genomes in which no 16S rRNA genes harbor the conserved core of the anti–Shine-Dalgarno sequence (5′-CCTCC-3′). This loss was accompanied by elimination of Shine-Dalgarno–like sequences upstream of their protein-coding genes. Those genomes belong to 1 or 2 of the following categories: primary symbionts, hemotropic Mycoplasma, and Flavobacteria. We also found many rearranged rRNA genes and reconstructed their history. Conjecturing the underlying mechanisms, such as inversion, partial duplication, transposon insertion, deletion, and substitution, we were able to infer their biological significance, such as co-orientation of rRNA transcription and chromosomal replication, lateral transfer of rRNA gene segments, and spread of rRNA genes with an apparent structural defect through gene conversion. These results open the way to understanding dynamic evolutionary changes of rRNA genes and the translational machinery.
rRNA; Shine–Dalgarno sequence; symbiosis; Mycoplasma; Flavobacteria; genomic rearrangement
Pathogen infection often leads to the expression of virulence and host death when the host-pathogen symbiosis seems more beneficial for the pathogen. Previously proposed explanations have focused on the pathogen's side. In this work, we tested a hypothesis focused on the host strategy. If a member of a host population dies immediately upon infection aborting pathogen reproduction, it can protect the host population from secondary infections. We tested this "Suicidal Defense Against Infection" (SDAI) hypothesis by developing an experimental infection system that involves a huge number of bacteria as hosts and their virus as pathogen, which is linked to modeling and simulation. Our experiments and simulations demonstrate that a population with SDAI strategy is successful in the presence of spatial structure but fails in its absence. The infection results in emergence of pathogen mutants not inducing the host suicide in addition to host mutants resistant to the pathogen.
Helicobacter pylori is a gastric pathogen that infects half the human population and causes gastritis, ulcers, and cancer. The cagA gene product is a major virulence factor associated with gastric cancer. It is injected into epithelial cells, undergoes phosphorylation by host cell kinases, and perturbs host signaling pathways. CagA is known for its geographical, structural, and functional diversity in the C-terminal half, where an EPIYA host-interacting motif is repeated. The Western version of CagA carries the EPIYA segment types A, B, and C, while the East Asian CagA carries types A, B, and D and shows higher virulence. Many structural variants such as duplications and deletions are reported. In this study, we gained insight into the relationships of CagA variants through various modes of recombination, by analyzing all known cagA variants at the DNA sequence level with the single nucleotide resolution. Processes that occurred were: (i) homologous recombination between DNA sequences for CagA multimerization (CM) sequence; (ii) recombination between DNA sequences for the EPIYA motif; and (iii) recombination between short similar DNA sequences. The left half of the EPIYA-D segment characteristic of East Asian CagA was derived from Western type EPIYA, with Amerind type EPIYA as the intermediate, through rearrangements of specific sequences within the gene. Adaptive amino acid changes were detected in the variable region as well as in the conserved region at sites to which no specific function has yet been assigned. Each showed a unique evolutionary distribution. These results clarify recombination-mediated routes of cagA evolution and provide a solid basis for a deeper understanding of its function in pathogenesis.
Modification of complex microbial cellular processes is often necessary to obtain organisms with particularly favorable characteristics, but such experiments can take many generations to achieve. In the present article, we accelerated the experimental evolution of Escherichia coli populations under selection for improved growth using one of the restriction–modification systems, which have shaped bacterial genomes. This resulted in faster evolutionary changes in both the genome and bacterial growth. Transcriptome/genome analysis at various stages enabled prompt identification of sequential genome rearrangements and dynamic gene-expression changes associated with growth improvement. The changes were related to cell-to-cell communication, the cell death program, as well as mass production and energy consumption. These observed changes imply that improvements in microorganism population growth can be achieved by inactivating the cellular mechanisms regulating fraction of active cells in a population. Some of the mutations were shown to have additive effects on growth. These results open the way for the application of evolutionary genome engineering to generate organisms with desirable properties.
The genome of Helicobacter pylori, an oncogenic bacterium in the human stomach, rapidly evolves and shows wide geographical divergence. The high incidence of stomach cancer in East Asia might be related to bacterial genotype. We used newly developed comparative methods to follow the evolution of East Asian H. pylori genomes using 20 complete genome sequences from Japanese, Korean, Amerind, European, and West African strains.
A phylogenetic tree of concatenated well-defined core genes supported divergence of the East Asian lineage (hspEAsia; Japanese and Korean) from the European lineage ancestor, and then from the Amerind lineage ancestor. Phylogenetic profiling revealed a large difference in the repertoire of outer membrane proteins (including oipA, hopMN, babABC, sabAB and vacA-2) through gene loss, gain, and mutation. All known functions associated with molybdenum, a rare element essential to nearly all organisms that catalyzes two-electron-transfer oxidation-reduction reactions, appeared to be inactivated. Two pathways linking acetyl~CoA and acetate appeared intact in some Japanese strains. Phylogenetic analysis revealed greater divergence between the East Asian (hspEAsia) and the European (hpEurope) genomes in proteins in host interaction, specifically virulence factors (tipα), outer membrane proteins, and lipopolysaccharide synthesis (human Lewis antigen mimicry) enzymes. Divergence was also seen in proteins in electron transfer and translation fidelity (miaA, tilS), a DNA recombinase/exonuclease that recognizes genome identity (addA), and DNA/RNA hybrid nucleases (rnhAB). Positively selected amino acid changes between hspEAsia and hpEurope were mapped to products of cagA, vacA, homC (outer membrane protein), sotB (sugar transport), and a translation fidelity factor (miaA). Large divergence was seen in genes related to antibiotics: frxA (metronidazole resistance), def (peptide deformylase, drug target), and ftsA (actin-like, drug target).
These results demonstrate dramatic genome evolution within a species, especially in likely host interaction genes. The East Asian strains appear to differ greatly from the European strains in electron transfer and redox reactions. These findings also suggest a model of adaptive evolution through proteome diversification and selection through modulation of translational fidelity. The results define H. pylori East Asian lineages and provide essential information for understanding their pathogenesis and designing drugs and therapies that target them.
A protein function is carried out by a specific domain localized at a specific position. In the present study, we report that, within a gene, a specific amino acid sequence can move between a certain position and another position. This was discovered when the sequences of restriction-modification systems within the bacterial species Helicobacter pylori were compared. In the specificity subunit of Type I restriction-modification systems, DNA sequence recognition is mediated by target recognition domain 1 (TRD1) and TRD2. To our surprise, several sequences are shared by TRD1 and TRD2 of genes (alleles) at the same locus (chromosomal location); these domains appear to have moved between the two positions. The gene/protein organization can be represented as x-(TRD1)-y-x-(TRD2)-y, where x and y represent repeat sequences. Movement probably occurs by recombination at these flanking DNA repeats. In accordance with this hypothesis, recombination at these repeats also appears to decrease two TRDs into one TRD or increase these two TRDs to three TRDs (TRD1-TRD2-TRD2) and to allow TRD movement between genes even at different loci. Similar movement of domains between TRD1 and TRD2 was observed for the specificity subunit of a Type IIG restriction enzyme. Similar movement of domain between TRD1 and TRD2 was observed for Type I restriction-modification enzyme specificity genes in two more eubacterial species, Streptococcus pyogenes and Mycoplasma agalactiae. Lateral domain movements within a protein, which we have designated DOMO (domain movement), represent novel routes for the diversification of proteins.
Restriction–modification systems consist of a modification enzyme that methylates a specific DNA sequence and a restriction endonuclease that cleaves DNA lacking this epigenetic signature. Their gene expression should be finely regulated because their potential to attack the host bacterial genome needs to be controlled. In the EcoRI system, where the restriction gene is located upstream of the modification gene in the same orientation, we previously identified intragenic reverse promoters affecting gene expression. In the present work, we identified a small (88 nt) antisense RNA (Rna0) transcribed from a reverse promoter (PREV0) at the 3′ end of the restriction gene. Its antisense transcription, as measured by transcriptional gene fusion, appeared to be terminated by the PM1,M2 promoter. PM1,M2 promoter-initiated transcription, in turn, appeared to be inhibited by PREV0. Mutational inactivation of PREV0 increased expression of the restriction gene. The biological significance of this antisense transcription is 2-fold. First, a mutation in PREV0 increased restriction of incoming DNA. Second, the presence of the antisense RNA gene (ecoRIA) in trans alleviated cell killing after loss of the EcoRI plasmid (post-segregational killing). Taken together, these results strongly suggested the involvement of an antisense RNA in the biological regulation of this restriction–modification system.
Epigenetic DNA methylation is involved in many biological processes. An epigenetic status can be altered by gain or loss of a DNA methyltransferase gene or its activity. Repair of DNA damage can also remove DNA methylation. In response to such alterations, DNA endonucleases that sense DNA methylation can act and may cause cell death. Here, we explored the possibility that McrBC, a methylation-dependent DNase of Escherichia coli, cleaves DNA at a replication fork. First, we found that in vivo restriction by McrBC of bacteriophage carrying a foreign DNA methyltransferase gene is increased in the absence of homologous recombination. This suggests that some cleavage events are repaired by recombination and must take place during or after replication. Next, we demonstrated that the enzyme can cleave a model DNA replication fork in vitro. Cleavage of a fork required methylation on both arms and removed one, the other or both of the arms. Most cleavage events removed the methylated sites from the fork. This result suggests that acquisition of even rarely occurring modification patterns will be recognized and rejected efficiently by modification-dependent restriction systems that recognize two sites. This process might serve to maintain an epigenetic status along the genome through programmed cell death.
Potential mobility of restriction-modification systems has been suggested by evolutionary/bioinformatic analysis of prokaryotic genomes. Here we demonstrate in vivo movement of a restriction-modification system within a genome under a laboratory condition. After blocking replication of a temperature-sensitive plasmid carrying a PaeR7I restriction-modification system in Escherichia coli cells, the plasmid was found integrated into the chromosome of the surviving cells. Sequence analysis revealed that, in the majority of products, the restriction-modification system was linked to chromosomal insertion sequences (ISs). Three types of products were: (I) apparent co-integration of the plasmid and the chromosome at a chromosomal IS1 or IS5 copy (24/28 analyzed); (II) de novo insertion of IS1 with the entire plasmid except for a 1–3 bp terminal deletion (2/28); and (III) reciprocal crossing-over between the plasmid and the chromosome involving 1–3 bp of sequence identity (2/28). An R-negative mutation apparently decreased the efficiency of successful integration by two orders of magnitude. Reconstruction experiments demonstrated that the restriction-dependence was mainly due to selection against cells without proper integration: their growth was inhibited by the restriction enzyme action. These results demonstrate collaboration of a mobile element and a restriction-modification system for successful joint migration. This collaboration may have promoted the spread and, therefore, the long-term persistence of these complexes and restriction-modification systems in a wide range of prokaryotes.
Epigenetic modification of genomic DNA by methylation is important for defining the epigenome and the transcriptome in eukaryotes as well as in prokaryotes. In prokaryotes, the DNA methyltransferase genes often vary, are mobile, and are paired with the gene for a restriction enzyme. Decrease in a certain epigenetic methylation may lead to chromosome cleavage by the partner restriction enzyme, leading to eventual cell death. Thus, the pairing of a DNA methyltransferase and a restriction enzyme forces an epigenetic state to be maintained within the genome. Although restriction enzymes were originally discovered for their ability to attack invading DNAs, it may be understood because such DNAs show deviation from this epigenetic status. DNAs with epigenetic methylation, by a methyltransferase linked or unlinked with a restriction enzyme, can also be the target of DNases, such as McrBC of Escherichia coli, which was discovered because of its methyl-specific restriction. McrBC responds to specific genome methylation systems by killing the host bacterial cell through chromosome cleavage. Evolutionary and genomic analysis of McrBC homologues revealed their mobility and wide distribution in prokaryotes similar to restriction–modification systems. These findings support the hypothesis that this family of methyl-specific DNases evolved as mobile elements competing with specific genome methylation systems through host killing. These restriction systems clearly demonstrate the presence of conflicts between epigenetic systems.
intragenomic conflict; programmed cell death; epigenetic DNA methylation; restriction–modification system; McrBC
The mobility of restriction–modification (RM) gene complexes and their association with genome rearrangements is a subject of active investigation. Here we conducted systematic genome comparisons and genome context analysis on fully sequenced prokaryotic genomes to detect RM-linked genome rearrangements. RM genes were frequently found to be linked to mobility-related genes such as integrase and transposase homologs. They were flanked by direct and inverted repeats at a significantly high frequency. Insertion by long target duplication was observed for I, II, III and IV restriction types. We found several RM genes flanked by long inverted repeats, some of which had apparently inserted into a genome with a short target duplication. In some cases, only a portion of an apparently complete RM system was flanked by inverted repeats. We also found a unit composed of RM genes and an integrase homolog that integrated into a tRNA gene. An allelic substitution of a Type III system with a linked Type I and IV system pair, and allelic diversity in the putative target recognition domain of Type IIG systems were observed. This study revealed the possible mobility of all types of RM systems, and the diversity in their mobility-related organization.
Genome comparison and genome context analysis were used to find a putative mobile element in the genome of Photorhabdus luminescens, an entomopathogenic bacterium. The element is composed of 16-bp direct repeats in the terminal regions, which are identical to a part of insertion sequences (ISs), a DNA methyltransferase gene homolog, two genes of unknown functions and an open reading frame (ORF) (plu0599) encoding a protein with no detectable sequence similarity to any known protein. The ORF (plu0599) product showed DNA endonuclease activity, when expressed in a cell-free expression system. Subsequently, the protein, named R.PluTI, was expressed in vivo, purified and found to be a novel type IIF restriction enzyme that recognizes 5′-GGCGC/C-3′ (/ indicates position of cleavage). R.PluTI cleaves a two-site supercoiled substrate at both the sites faster than a one-site supercoiled substrate. The modification enzyme homolog encoded by plu0600, named M.PluTI, was expressed in Escherichia coli and shown to protect DNA from R.PluTI cleavage in vitro, and to suppress the lethal effects of R.PluTI expression in vivo. These results suggested that they constitute a restriction–modification system, present on the putative mobile element. Our approach thus allowed detection of a previously uncharacterized family of DNA-interacting proteins.
Cleavage of a DNA replication fork leads to fork restoration by recombination repair. In prokaryote cells carrying restriction–modification systems, fork passage reduces genome methylation by the modification enzyme and exposes the chromosome to attack by the restriction enzyme. Various observations have suggested a relationship between the fork and Type I restriction enzymes, which cleave DNA at a distance from a recognition sequence. Here, we demonstrate that a Type I restriction enzyme preparation cleaves a model replication fork at its branch. The enzyme probably tracks along the DNA from an unmethylated recognition site on the daughter DNA and cuts the fork upon encountering the branch point. Our finding suggests that these restriction–modification systems contribute to genome maintenance through cell death and indicates that DNA replication fork cleavage represents a critical point in genome maintenance to choose between the restoration pathway and the destruction pathway.
Genetically programmed cell deaths play important roles in unicellular prokaryotes. In postsegregational killing, loss of a gene complex from a cell leads to its descendants’ deaths. With type II restriction–modification gene complexes, such death is triggered by restriction endonuclease's attacks on under-methylated chromosomes. Here, we examined how the Escherichia coli transcriptome changes after loss of PaeR7I gene complex. At earlier time points, activation of SOS genes and σE-regulon was noticeable. With time, more SOS genes, stress-response genes (including σS-regulon, osmotic-, oxidative- and periplasmic-stress genes), biofilm-related genes, and many hitherto uncharacterized genes were induced, and genes for energy metabolism, motility and outer membrane biogenesis were repressed. As expected from the activation of σE-regulon, the death was accompanied by cell lysis and release of cellular proteins. Expression of several σE-regulon genes indeed led to cell lysis. We hypothesize that some signal was transduced, among multiple genes involved, from the damaged genome to the cell surface and led to its disintegration. These results are discussed in comparison with other forms of programmed deaths in bacteria and eukaryotes.
The McrBC methyl-specific deoxyribonuclease from Escherichia coli can respond to genome methylation by host killing.
Alteration in epigenetic methylation can affect gene expression and other processes. In Prokaryota, DNA methyltransferase genes frequently move between genomes and present a potential threat. A methyl-specific deoxyribonuclease, McrBC, of Escherichia coli cuts invading methylated DNAs. Here we examined whether McrBC competes with genome methylation systems through host killing by chromosome cleavage.
McrBC inhibited the establishment of a plasmid carrying a PvuII methyltransferase gene but lacking its recognition sites, likely through the lethal cleavage of chromosomes that became methylated. Indeed, its phage-mediated transfer caused McrBC-dependent chromosome cleavage. Its induction led to cell death accompanied by chromosome methylation, cleavage and degradation. RecA/RecBCD functions affect chromosome processing and, together with the SOS response, reduce lethality. Our evolutionary/genomic analyses of McrBC homologs revealed: a wide distribution in Prokaryota; frequent distant horizontal transfer and linkage with mobility-related genes; and diversification in the DNA binding domain. In these features, McrBCs resemble type II restriction-modification systems, which behave as selfish mobile elements, maintaining their frequency by host killing. McrBCs are frequently found linked with a methyltransferase homolog, which suggests a functional association.
Our experiments indicate McrBC can respond to genome methylation systems by host killing. Combined with our evolutionary/genomic analyses, they support our hypothesis that McrBCs have evolved as mobile elements competing with specific genome methylation systems through host killing. To our knowledge, this represents the first report of a defense system against epigenetic systems through cell death.
Catalytic domains of Type II restriction endonucleases (REases) belong to a few unrelated three-dimensional folds. While the PD-(D/E)XK fold is most common among these enzymes, crystal structures have been also determined for single representatives of two other folds: PLD (R.BfiI) and half-pipe (R.PabI). Bioinformatics analyses supported by mutagenesis experiments suggested that some REases belong to the HNH fold (e.g. R.KpnI), and that a small group represented by R.Eco29kI belongs to the GIY-YIG fold. However, for a large fraction of REases with known sequences, the three-dimensional fold and the architecture of the active site remain unknown, mostly due to extreme sequence divergence that hampers detection of homology to enzymes with known folds.
R.Hpy188I is a Type II REase with unknown structure. PSI-BLAST searches of the non-redundant protein sequence database reveal only 1 homolog (R.HpyF17I, with nearly identical amino acid sequence and the same DNA sequence specificity). Standard application of state-of-the-art protein fold-recognition methods failed to predict the relationship of R.Hpy188I to proteins with known structure or to other protein families. In order to increase the amount of evolutionary information in the multiple sequence alignment, we have expanded our sequence database searches to include sequences from metagenomics projects. This search resulted in identification of 23 further members of R.Hpy188I family, both from metagenomics and the non-redundant database. Moreover, fold-recognition analysis of the extended R.Hpy188I family revealed its relationship to the GIY-YIG domain and allowed for computational modeling of the R.Hpy188I structure. Analysis of the R.Hpy188I model in the light of sequence conservation among its homologs revealed an unusual variant of the active site, in which the typical Tyr residue of the YIG half-motif had been substituted by a Lys residue. Moreover, some of its homologs have the otherwise invariant Arg residue in a non-homologous position in sequence that nonetheless allows for spatial conservation of the guanidino group potentially involved in phosphate binding.
The present study eliminates a significant "white spot" on the structural map of REases. It also provides important insight into sequence-structure-function relationships in the GIY-YIG nuclease superfamily. Our results reveal that in the case of proteins with no or few detectable homologs in the standard "non-redundant" database, it is useful to expand this database by adding the metagenomic sequences, which may provide evolutionary linkage to detect more remote homologs.
It has been assumed that an open reading frame (ORF) represents a unit of gene evolution as well as a unit of gene expression and function. In the present work, we report a case in which a unit comprising the 3′ region of an ORF linked to a downstream intergenic region that is in turn linked to the 5′ region of a downstream ORF has been conserved, and has served as the unit of gene evolution. The genes are tandem paralogous genes from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, for which more than ten entire genomes have been sequenced. We compared these multiple genome sequences at a locus for the lpl (lipoprotein-like) cluster (encoding lipoprotein homologs presumably related to their host interaction) in the genomic island termed νSaα. A highly conserved nucleotide sequence found within every lpl ORF is likely to provide a site for homologous recombination. Comparison of phylogenies of the 5′-variable region and the 3′-variable region within the same ORF revealed significant incongruence. In contrast, pairs of the 3′-variable region of an ORF and the 5′-variable region of the next downstream ORF gave more congruent phylogenies, with distinct groups of conserved pairs. The intergenic region seemed to have coevolved with the flanking variable regions. Multiple recombination events at the central conserved region appear to have caused various types of rearrangements among strains, shuffling the two variable regions in one ORF, but maintaining a conserved unit comprising the 3′-variable region, the intergenic region, and the 5′-variable region spanning adjacent ORFs. This result has strong impact on our understanding of gene evolution because most gene lineages underwent tandem duplication and then diversified. This work also illustrates the use of multiple genome sequences for high-resolution evolutionary analysis within the same species.
Staphylococcus aureus; genome evolution; gene duplication; genome rearrangement; genome comparison; MRSA
Several type II restriction-modification gene complexes can force their maintenance on their host bacteria by killing cells that have lost them in a process called postsegregational killing or genetic addiction. It is likely to proceed by dilution of the modification enzyme molecule during rounds of cell division following the gene loss, which exposes unmethylated recognition sites on the newly replicated chromosomes to lethal attack by the remaining restriction enzyme molecules. This process is in apparent contrast to the process of the classical types of postsegregational killing systems, in which built-in metabolic instability of the antitoxin allows release of the toxin for lethal action after the gene loss. In the present study, we characterize a mutant form of the EcoRII gene complex that shows stronger capacity in such maintenance. This phenotype is conferred by an L80P amino acid substitution (T239C nucleotide substitution) mutation in the modification enzyme. This mutant enzyme showed decreased DNA methyltransferase activity at a higher temperature in vivo and in vitro than the nonmutated enzyme, although a deletion mutant lacking the N-terminal 83 amino acids did not lose activity at either of the temperatures tested. Under a condition of inhibited protein synthesis, the activity of the L80P mutant was completely lost at a high temperature. In parallel, the L80P mutant protein disappeared more rapidly than the wild-type protein. These results demonstrate that the capability of a restriction-modification system in forcing maintenance on its host can be modulated by a region of its antitoxin, the modification enzyme, as in the classical postsegregational killing systems.
Type II restriction-modification systems are expected to possess mechanisms for tight regulation of their expression to suppress the potential of lethal attack on their host bacteria when they establish and maintain themselves within them. Although the EcoRI restriction enzyme has been well characterized, regulation of its expression is still poorly understood. In this study, mutational analysis with lacZ gene fusion and primer extension assay identified a promoter for the transcription of the ecoRIR gene. Further analyses revealed that an intragenic region containing two overlapping reverse promoter-like elements acted as a negative regulator for ecoRIR gene expression. The activity of these putative reverse promoters was verified by transcriptional gene fusion, primer extension and in vitro transcription. Mutations in these reverse promoters resulted in increased gene expression in both translational and transcriptional gene fusions. An RNase protection assay revealed that the transcript level of the wild type relative to that of the reverse promoter mutant at the downstream regions was much lower than the level at the upstream regions. This suggests that these reverse promoter-like elements affect their downstream transcript level. The possible mechanisms of this kind of negative regulation, in addition to their possible biological roles, are discussed.