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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 1990; 87(20): 8125–8129.

Chimeric phage-bacterial enzymes: a clue to the modular evolution of genes.


Pneumococcal peptidoglycan amidase (N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase, EC and phage CPL1 lysozyme degrade a common substrate (choline-containing pneumococcal cell walls); the former hydrolyzes the bond between muramic acid and alanine, whereas the latter breaks down the linkage between muramic acid and glucosamine. The amino acid sequences of their C-terminal domains are homologous. Chimeric genes were constructed by site-directed mutagenesis: a unique SnaBI restriction site in the cpl1 gene, coding for the phage lysozyme, was introduced at a location equivalent to the SnaBI site present in the lytA gene, which codes for the pneumococcal amidase. The resulting genes expressed lytic activities at levels similar to those of the parental genes. The gene products, which have been purified to electrophoretical homogeneity, exhibited unusual combined biochemical properties--e.g., by exchange of protein domains, we have switched the regulatory properties of these enzymes without altering their catalytic activities. Chimeric gene construction in Streptococcus pneumoniae and its bacteriophages is an excellent model to study the modular organization of genes and proteins and to help to establish evolutionary relationships between phage and bacteria. These constructions provide an experimental approach to the molecular processes involved in cassette recruitment during evolution and contribute support to the concept of bacteria as adaptable chimeras.

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