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J Bacteriol. 1986 Sep; 167(3): 1035–1042.
PMCID: PMC215977

Mutational analysis of bacteriophage lambda lysis gene S.


A plasmid carrying the bacteriophage lambda lysis genes under lac control was subjected to hydroxylamine mutagenesis, and mutations eliminating the host lethality of the S gene were selected. DNA sequence analysis revealed 48 single-base mutations which resulted in alterations within the coding sequence of the S gene. Thirty-three different missense alleles were generated. Most of the missense changes clustered in the first two-thirds of the molecule from the N terminus. A simple model for the disposition of the S protein within the inner membrane can be derived from inspection of the primary sequence. In the first 60 residues, there are two distinct stretches of predominantly hydrophobic amino acids, each region having a net neutral charge and extending for at least 20 residues. These regions resemble canonical membrane-spanning domains. In the model, the two domains span the bilayer as a pair of net neutral charge helices, and the N-terminal 10 to 12 residues extend into the periplasm. The mutational pattern is largely consistent with the model. Charge changes within the putative imbedded regions render the protein nonfunctional. Loss of glycine residues at crucial reverse-turn domains which would be required to reorient the molecule to reenter the membrane also inactivate the molecule. Finally, a number of neutral and rather subtle mutations such as Ala to Val and Met to Ile are found, mostly within the putative spanning regions. Although no obvious explanation exists for this subtle and heterogeneous class of mutations, it is noted that all of the changes result in a loss of alpha-helical character as predicted by Chou-Fasman theoretical analysis. Alternative explanations for some of these changes are also possible, including a reduction in net translation rate due to substitution of a rare codon for a common one. The model and the pattern of mutations have implications for the probable oligomerization of the S protein at the time of endolysin release at the end of the vegetative growth period.

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Selected References

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