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Biochemistry. 2002 Apr 23;41(16):5236-44.

A mutational analysis of the PD...D/EXK motif suggests that McrC harbors the catalytic center for DNA cleavage by the GTP-dependent restriction enzyme McrBC from Escherichia coli.

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Institut für Biochemie (FB 08), Justus-Liebig-Universität, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 58, D-35392 Giessen, Germany.


McrBC is a unique restriction enzyme which binds specifically to the bipartite recognition sequence R(m)CN( approximately )(30)(-)( approximately )(2000)R(m)C and in the presence of GTP translocates the DNA and cleaves both strands at multiple positions within the two R(m)C "half-sites". It is known that McrBC is composed of two subunits: McrB which binds and hydrolyzes GTP and specifically interacts with DNA and McrC whose function is not clear but which has been suspected to harbor the catalytic center for DNA cleavage. A multiple-sequence alignment of the amino acid sequence of Escherichia coli McrC and of six presumably homologous open reading frames from various bacterial species shows that a sequence motif found in many restriction enzymes, but also in other nucleases, the PD.D/EXK motif, is conserved among these sequences. A mutational analysis, in which the carboxylates (aspartic acid in McrC) of this motif were substituted with alanine or asparagine and lysine was substituted with alanine or arginine, strongly suggests that Asp244, Asp257, and Lys259 represent the catalytic center of E. coli McrC. Whereas the variants D244A (or -N), D257A (or -N), and K259A are inactive in DNA cleavage (K259R has residual DNA cleavage activity), they interact with McrB like wild-type McrC, as can be deduced from the finding that they stimulate the McrB-catalyzed GTP hydrolysis to the same extent as wild-type McrC. Thus, whereas McrC variants defective in DNA cleavage can stimulate the GTPase activity of McrB, the DNase activity of McrC is not supported by McrB variants defective in GTP hydrolysis.

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