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J Bacteriol. Oct 1994; 176(19): 6015–6022.
PMCID: PMC196819

A new gene involved in stationary-phase survival located at 59 minutes on the Escherichia coli chromosome.


We determined the DNA sequence of a 2,232-bp region immediately upstream of the pcm gene at 59 min on the Escherichia coli chromosome that encodes an L-isoaspartyl protein methyltransferase with an important role in stationary-phase survival. Two open reading frames of 477 and 1,524 bp were found oriented in the same direction as that of the pcm gene. The latter open reading frame overlapped the 5' end of the pcm gene by 4 bp. Coupled in vitro transcription-translation analysis of DNA containing the 1,524-bp open reading frame directly demonstrated the production of a 37,000-Da polypeptide corresponding to a RNA species generated from a promoter within the open reading frame. The deduced amino acid sequence showed no similarity to known protein sequences. To test the function of this gene product, we constructed a mutant strain in which a kanamycin resistance element was inserted at a BstEII site in the middle of its coding region in an orientation that does not result in reduction of Pcm methyltransferase activity. These cells were found to survive poorly in stationary phase, at elevated temperatures, and in high-salt media compared with parent cells containing the intact gene, and we thus designate this gene surE (survival). surE appears to be the first gene of a bicistronic operon also containing the pcm gene. The phenotypes of mutations in either gene are very similar and indicate that both gene products are important for the viability of E. coli cells under stressful conditions.

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