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2.  A putative mobile genetic element carrying a novel type IIF restriction-modification system (PluTI) 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(9):3019-3030.
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.
PMCID: PMC2875022  PMID: 20071747
3.  Cell death upon epigenetic genome methylation: a novel function of methyl-specific deoxyribonucleases 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R163.
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.
PMCID: PMC2614495  PMID: 19025584
4.  Type II restriction endonuclease R.Hpy188I belongs to the GIY-YIG nuclease superfamily, but exhibits an unusual active site 
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.
PMCID: PMC2630997  PMID: 19014591
5.  Novel protein fold discovered in the PabI family of restriction enzymes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(6):1908-1918.
Although structures of many DNA-binding proteins have been solved, they fall into a limited number of folds. Here, we describe an approach that led to the finding of a novel DNA-binding fold. Based on the behavior of Type II restriction–modification gene complexes as mobile elements, our earlier work identified a restriction enzyme, R.PabI, and its cognate modification enzyme in Pyrococcus abyssi through comparison of closely related genomes. While the modification methyltransferase was easily recognized, R.PabI was predicted to have a novel 3D structure. We expressed cytotoxic R.PabI in a wheat-germ-based cell-free translation system and determined its crystal structure. R.PabI turned out to adopt a novel protein fold. Homodimeric R.PabI has a curved anti-parallel β-sheet that forms a ‘half pipe’. Mutational and in silico DNA-binding analyses have assigned it as the double-strand DNA-binding site. Unlike most restriction enzymes analyzed, R.PabI is able to cleave DNA in the absence of Mg2+. These results demonstrate the value of genome comparison and the wheat-germ-based system in finding a novel DNA-binding motif in mobile DNases and, in general, a novel protein fold in horizontally transferred genes.
PMCID: PMC1874622  PMID: 17332011
6.  Discovery of a novel restriction endonuclease by genome comparison and application of a wheat-germ-based cell-free translation assay: PabI (5′-GTA/C) from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus abyssi 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(13):e112.
To search for restriction endonucleases, we used a novel plant-based cell-free translation procedure that bypasses the toxicity of these enzymes. To identify candidate genes, the related genomes of the hyperthermophilic archaea Pyrococcus abyssi and Pyrococcus horikoshii were compared. In line with the selfish mobile gene hypothesis for restriction–modification systems, apparent genome rearrangement around putative restriction genes served as a selecting criterion. Several candidate restriction genes were identified and then amplified in such a way that they were removed from their own translation signal. During their cloning into a plasmid, the genes became connected with a plant translation signal. After in vitro transcription by T7 RNA polymerase, the mRNAs were separated from the template DNA and translated in a wheat-germ-based cell-free protein synthesis system. The resulting solution could be directly assayed for restriction activity. We identified two deoxyribonucleases. The novel enzyme was denoted as PabI, purified and found to recognize 5′-GTAC and leave a 3′-TA overhang (5′-GTA/C), a novel restriction enzyme-generated terminus. PabI is active up to 90°C and optimally active at a pH of around 6 and in NaCl concentrations ranging from 100 to 200 mM. We predict that it has a novel 3D structure.
PMCID: PMC1178009  PMID: 16040595

Results 1-6 (6)