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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Mar; 85(6): 1811–1815.
PMCID: PMC279869

UmuD mutagenesis protein of Escherichia coli: overproduction, purification, and cleavage by RecA.


The mutation rate of Escherichia coli increases approximately 100-fold after treatment with replication-inhibiting agents such as UV light. This enhanced mutation rate requires the action of the UmuD and UmuC proteins, which are induced as part of the SOS response to DNA damage. To initiate a biochemical characterization of the role of these proteins, we have developed a plasmid system that gives efficient expression of the umuD and umuC genes. The umuD and umuC genes were placed under the control of a regulated phage lambda PL promoter and a synthetic ribosome-binding site, and the distance to the UmuD start was adjusted to maximize gene expression. Starting from this overproduction system, we have purified the UmuD protein and studied its interaction with RecA. The SOS response is turned on by the capacity of RecA protein to mediate cleavage of the LexA repressor for SOS-controlled operons. Others have shown that UmuD exhibits sequence homology to LexA around the cleavage site, suggesting a possible cleavage reaction for UmuD. We show that RecA mediates cleavage of UmuD, probably at this site. As with LexA, UmuD also undergoes a self-cleavage reaction. We infer that RecA-mediated cleavage of UmuD is another role for RecA in SOS mutagenesis, probably activating UmuD for its mutagenic function.

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