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1.  Cytosine-to-Uracil Deamination by SssI DNA Methyltransferase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e79003.
The prokaryotic DNA(cytosine-5)methyltransferase M.SssI shares the specificity of eukaryotic DNA methyltransferases (CG) and is an important model and experimental tool in the study of eukaryotic DNA methylation. Previously, M.SssI was shown to be able to catalyze deamination of the target cytosine to uracil if the methyl donor S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM) was missing from the reaction. To test whether this side-activity of the enzyme can be used to distinguish between unmethylated and C5-methylated cytosines in CG dinucleotides, we re-investigated, using a sensitive genetic reversion assay, the cytosine deaminase activity of M.SssI. Confirming previous results we showed that M.SssI can deaminate cytosine to uracil in a slow reaction in the absence of SAM and that the rate of this reaction can be increased by the SAM analogue 5’-amino-5’-deoxyadenosine. We could not detect M.SssI-catalyzed deamination of C5-methylcytosine (m5C). We found conditions where the rate of M.SssI mediated C-to-U deamination was at least 100-fold higher than the rate of m5C-to-T conversion. Although this difference in reactivities suggests that the enzyme could be used to identify C5-methylated cytosines in the epigenetically important CG dinucleotides, the rate of M.SssI mediated cytosine deamination is too low to become an enzymatic alternative to the bisulfite reaction. Amino acid replacements in the presumed SAM binding pocket of M.SssI (F17S and G19D) resulted in greatly reduced methyltransferase activity. The G19D variant showed cytosine deaminase activity in E. coli, at physiological SAM concentrations. Interestingly, the C-to-U deaminase activity was also detectable in an E. coli ung+ host proficient in uracil excision repair.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079003
PMCID: PMC3804486  PMID: 24205358
2.  Complementation between inactive fragments of SssI DNA methyltransferase 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:17.
Background
Silencing mammalian genes by targeted DNA (cytosine-5) methylation of selected CG sites in the genome would be a powerful technique to analyze epigenomic information and to study the roles of DNA methylation in physiological and pathological states. A promising approach of targeted DNA methylation is based on the ability of split fragments of a monomeric DNA methyltransferase (C5-MTase) to associate and form active enzyme. A few C5-MTases of different specificities have been shown to possess the ability of fragment complementation, but a demonstration of this phenomenon for a C5-MTase, which has CG specificity and thus can be targeted to methylate any CG site, has been lacking. The purpose of this study was to test whether the CG-specific prokaryotic C5-MTase M.SssI shows the phenomenon of fragment complementation.
Results
We show that truncated inactive N-terminal fragments of M.SssI can assemble with truncated inactive C-terminal fragments to form active enzyme in vivo when produced in the same E. coli cell. Overlapping and non-overlapping fragments as well as fragments containing short appended foreign sequences had complementation capacity. In optimal combinations C-terminal fragments started between conserved motif VIII and the predicted target recognizing domain of M.SssI. DNA methyltransferase activity in crude extracts of cells with the best complementing fragment pairs was ~ 4 per cent of the activity of cells producing the full length enzyme. Fusions of two N-terminal and two C-terminal fragments to 21.6 kDa zinc finger domains only slightly reduced complementation ability of the fragments.
Conclusions
The CG-specific DNA methyltransferase M.SssI shows the phenomenon of fragment complementation in vivo in E. coli. Fusion of the split fragments to six unit zinc finger domains does not substantially interfere with the formation of active enzyme. These observations and the large number of complementing fragment combinations representing a wide range of MTase activity offer the possibility to develop M.SssI into a programmable DNA methyltransferase of high specificity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-13-17
PMCID: PMC3404938  PMID: 22646482
SssI DNA methyltransferase; DNA methylation; 5-methylcytosine; Protein fragment complementation; Protein fusion; Zinc finger
3.  The Type II restriction endonuclease MvaI has dual specificity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(22):8231-8238.
The MvaI restriction endonuclease cuts 5′-CC↓AGG-3′/5′-CC↑TGG-3′ sites as indicated by the arrows. N4-methylation of the inner cytosines (Cm4CAGG/Cm4CTGG) protects the site against MvaI cleavage. Here, we show that MvaI nicks the G-strand of the related sequence (CCGGG/CCCGG, BcnI site) if the inner cytosines are C5-methylated: Cm5C↓GGG/CCm5CGG. At M.SssI-methylated SmaI sites, where two oppositely oriented methylated BcnI sites partially overlap, double-nicking leads to double-strand cleavage (CCm5C↓GGG/CCm5C↑GGG) generating fragments with blunt ends. The double-strand cleavage rate and the stringency of substrate site recognition is lower at the methylation-dependent site than at the canonical target site. MvaI is the first restriction endonuclease shown to possess, besides the ‘normal’ activity on its unmethylated recognition site, also a methylation-directed activity on a different sequence.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkq676
PMCID: PMC3001055  PMID: 20693529
4.  BspRI restriction endonuclease: cloning, expression in Escherichia coli and sequential cleavage mechanism 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(20):7155-7166.
The GGCC-specific restriction endonuclease BspRI is one of the few Type IIP restriction endonucleases, which were suggested to be a monomer. Amino acid sequence information obtained by Edman sequencing and mass spectrometry analysis was used to clone the gene encoding BspRI. The bspRIR gene is located adjacently to the gene of the cognate modification methyltransferase and encodes a 304 aa protein. Expression of the bspRIR gene in Escherichia coli was dependent on the replacement of the native TTG initiation codon with an ATG codon, explaining previous failures in cloning the gene using functional selection. A plasmid containing a single BspRI recognition site was used to analyze kinetically nicking and second-strand cleavage under steady-state conditions. Cleavage of the supercoiled plasmid went through a relaxed intermediate indicating sequential hydrolysis of the two strands. Results of the kinetic analysis of the first- and second-strand cleavage are consistent with cutting the double-stranded substrate site in two independent binding events. A database search identified eight putative restriction-modification systems in which the predicted endonucleases as well as the methyltransferases share high sequence similarity with the corresponding protein of the BspRI system. BspRI and the related putative restriction endonucleases belong to the PD-(D/E)XK nuclease superfamily.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkq567
PMCID: PMC2978348  PMID: 20587501
5.  In Vivo DNA Protection by Relaxed-Specificity SinI DNA Methyltransferase Variants▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(24):8003-8008.
The SinI DNA methyltransferase, a component of the SinI restriction-modification system, recognizes the sequence GG(A/T)CC and methylates the inner cytosine to produce 5-methylcytosine. Previously isolated relaxed-specificity mutants of the enzyme also methylate, at a lower rate, GG(G/C)CC sites. In this work we tested the capacity of the mutant enzymes to function in vivo as the counterpart of a restriction endonuclease, which can cleave either site. The viability of Escherichia coli cells carrying recombinant plasmids with the mutant methyltransferase genes and expressing the GGNCC-specific Sau96I restriction endonuclease from a compatible plasmid was investigated. The sau96IR gene on the latter plasmid was transcribed from the araBAD promoter, allowing tightly controlled expression of the endonuclease. In the presence of low concentrations of the inducer arabinose, cells synthesizing the N172S or the V173L mutant enzyme displayed increased plating efficiency relative to cells producing the wild-type methyltransferase, indicating enhanced protection of the cell DNA against the Sau96I endonuclease. Nevertheless, this protection was not sufficient to support long-term survival in the presence of the inducer, which is consistent with incomplete methylation of GG(G/C)CC sites in plasmid DNA purified from the N172S and V173L mutants. Elevated DNA ligase activity was shown to further increase viability of cells producing the V173L variant and Sau96I endonuclease.
doi:10.1128/JB.00754-08
PMCID: PMC2593204  PMID: 18849437
6.  Cloning and Characterization of the DNA Region Responsible for Megacin A-216 Production in Bacillus megaterium 216 ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(19):6448-6457.
Upon induction, Bacillus megaterium 216 produces the bacteriocin megacin A-216, which leads to lysis of the producer cell and kills B. megaterium and a few other bacterial species. The DNA region responsible for megacinogeny was cloned in B. megaterium. The nucleotide sequence of a 5,494-bp-long subfragment was determined, and the function of the genes on this fragment was studied by generating deletions and analyzing their effects on MegA phenotypes. An open reading frame (ORF) encoding a 293-amino-acid protein was identified as the gene (megA) coding for megacin A-216. BLAST searches detected sequence similarity between megacin A-216 and proteins with phospholipase A2 activity. Purified biologically active megacin A-216 preparations contained three proteins. Mass spectrometry analysis showed that the largest protein is the full-length translation product of the megA gene, whereas the two shorter proteins are fragments of the long protein created by cleavage between Gln-185 and Val-186. The molecular masses of the three polypeptides are 32,855, 21,018, and 11,855 Da, respectively. Comparison of different megacin preparations suggests that the intact chain as well as the two combined fragments can form biologically active megacin. An ORF located next to the megA gene and encoding a 91-amino-acid protein was shown to be responsible for the relative immunity displayed by the producer strain against megacin A-216. Besides the megA gene, at least two other genes, including a gene encoding a 188-amino-acid protein sharing high sequence similarity with RNA polymerase sigma factors, were shown to be required for induction of megacin A-216 expression.
doi:10.1128/JB.00557-08
PMCID: PMC2565993  PMID: 18689470
7.  Changing the recognition specificity of a DNA-methyltransferase by in vitro evolution 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(13):3898-3903.
The gene coding for the SinI DNA-methyltransferase, a modification enzyme able to recognize and methylate the internal cytosine of the GGA/TCC sequence, was subjected to in vitro mutagenesis, DNA-shuffling and a strong selection for relaxed GGNCC recognition specificity. As a result of this in vitro evolution experiment, a mutant gene with the required phenotype was selected. The mutant SinI methyltransferase carried five amino acid substitutions. None of these was found in the ‘variable region’ that were thought to be responsible for sequence specificity. Three were located near the N-terminal end, preceding the first conserved structural motif of the enzyme; two were found between conserved motifs VI and VII. A clone engineered to carry out only the latter two replacements (L214S and Y229H) displays relaxed recognition specificity similar to that of the parental mutant, whereas the clone carrying only the N-terminal replacements showed a much weaker change in recognition specificity. The enzyme with two internal mutations was purified and characterized. Its catalytic activity (kcat/Km) was ∼5-fold lower towards GGA/TCC and 20-fold higher towards GGG/CCC than that of the wild-type enzyme.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkh724
PMCID: PMC506809  PMID: 15273276
8.  SURVEY AND SUMMARY: A nomenclature for restriction enzymes, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and their genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(7):1805-1812.
A nomenclature is described for restriction endonucleases, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and related genes and gene products. It provides explicit categories for the many different Type II enzymes now identified and provides a system for naming the putative genes found by sequence analysis of microbial genomes.
PMCID: PMC152790  PMID: 12654995
9.  Role of DNA minor groove interactions in substrate recognition by the M.SinI and M.EcoRII DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(15):3188-3194.
The SinI and EcoRII DNA methyltransferases recognize sequences (GGA/TCC and CCA/TGG, respectively), which are characterized by an A/T ambiguity. Recognition of the A·T and T·A base pair was studied by in vitro methyltransferase assays using oligonucleotide substrates containing a hypoxanthine·C base pair in the central position of the recognition sequence. Both enzymes methylated the substituted oligonucleotide with an efficiency that was comparable to methylation of the canonical substrate. These observations indicate that M.SinI and M.EcoRII discriminate between their canonical recognition site and the site containing a G·C or a C·G base pair in the center of the recognition sequence (GGG/CCC and CCG/CGG, respectively) by interaction(s) in the DNA minor groove. M.SinI mutants displaying a decreased capacity to discriminate between the GGA/TCC and GGG/CCC sequences were isolated by random mutagenesis and selection for the relaxed specificity phenotype. These mutations led to amino acid substitutions outside the variable region, previously thought to be the sole determinant of sequence specificity. These observations indicate that A/T versus G/C discrimination is mediated by interactions between the large domain of the methyltransferase and the minor groove surface of the DNA.
PMCID: PMC55819  PMID: 11470876
10.  DNA bending induced by DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(16):3083-3091.
DNA bending induced by six DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferases was studied using circular permutation gel mobility shift assay. The following bend angles were obtained: M.BspRI (GGm5CC), 46–50°; M.HaeIII (GGm5CC), 40–43°; M.SinI (GGWm5CC), 34–37°; M.Sau96I (GGNm5CC), 52–57°; M.HpaII (Cm5CGG), 30°; and M.HhaI (Gm5CGC), 13°. M.HaeIII was also tested with fragments carrying a methylated binding site, and it was found to induce a 32° bend. A phase-sensitive gel mobility shift assay, using a set of DNA fragments with a sequence-directed bend and a single methyltransferase binding site, indicated that M.HaeIII and M.BspRI bend DNA toward the minor groove. The DNA curvature induced by M.HaeIII contrasts with the lack of DNA bend observed for a covalent M.HaeIII–DNA complex in an earlier X-ray study. Our results and data from other laboratories show a correlation between the bending properties and the recognition specificities of (cytosine-5) methyltransferases: enzymes recognizing a cytosine 3′ to the target cytosine tend to induce greater bends than enzymes with guanine in this position. We suggest that the observed differences indicate different mechanisms employed by (cytosine-5) methyltransferases to stabilize the helix after the target base has flipped out.
PMCID: PMC108446  PMID: 10931923
11.  Targeted DNA Methylation by a DNA Methyltransferase Coupled to a Triple Helix Forming Oligonucleotide To Down-Regulate the Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule 
Bioconjugate Chemistry  2010;21(7):1239-1245.
The epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is a membrane glycoprotein that has been identified as a marker of cancer-initiating cells. EpCAM is highly expressed on most carcinomas, and transient silencing of EpCAM expression leads to reduced oncogenic potential. To silence the EpCAM gene in a persistent manner via targeted DNA methylation, a low activity mutant (C141S) of the CpG-specific DNA methyltransferase M.SssI was coupled to a triple-helix-forming oligonucleotide (TFO−C141S) specifically designed for the EpCAM gene. Reporter plasmids encoding the green fluorescent protein under control of different EpCAM promoter fragments were treated with the TFO−C141S conjugate to determine the specificity of targeted DNA methylation in the context of a functional EpCAM promoter. Treatment of the plasmids with TFO−C141S resulted in efficient and specific methylation of the targeted CpG located directly downstream of the triple helix forming site (TFS). No background DNA methylation was observed neither in a 700 bp region of the EpCAM promoter nor in a 400 bp region of the reporter gene downstream of the TFS. Methylation of the target CpG did not have a detectable effect on promoter activity. This study shows that the combination of a specific TFO and a reduced activity methyltransferase variant can be used to target DNA methylation to predetermined sites with high specificity, allowing determination of crucial CpGs for promoter activity.
doi:10.1021/bc1000388
PMCID: PMC2907751  PMID: 20593890

Results 1-11 (11)