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Mutat Res. 1992 Dec 16;284(2):307-19.

The interaction of the Escherichia coli mutD and mutT pathways in the prevention of A:T-->C:G transversions.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, San Jose State University, CA 95192.


The Escherichia coli mutT mutator allele produces high frequencies of exclusively A:T-->C:G transversions. This is thought to be caused by a failure to prevent or remove A:G mispairs during DNA replication. The mutD5 mutator allele maps to the dnaQ locus which encodes the epsilon subunit of the DNA polymerase III holoenzyme. This subunit provides 3'-->5' exonuclease, proofreading, activity for removing mispaired nucleotides at the 3' end of the newly synthesized DNA strand. mutD5 has an altered epsilon resulting in reduced levels of proofreading and subsequent high mutation frequencies for all base-pair substitutions. We have analyzed the interaction between mutD5 and mutT-induced A:T-->C:G transversions by measuring reversion frequencies in mutD5 and mutT single mutator strains and mutD5mutT double mutator strains using the well-characterized trpA58 and trpA88 alleles. We find that the double mutator strains produce more A:T-->C:G substitutions than would be expected from simple additivity of the single mutator strains. We interpret this to mean that the two systems, at least in part, do act together to prevent the same mutational intermediate from producing A:T-->C:G transversions. It is estimated that over 90% of the mutT-induced A:G mispairs are corrected by proofreading at the trpA58 site while only about 30% are corrected at trpA88. Reversion frequencies in the mutD5mutT double mutator strains indicate A:G misincorporations occur about 100 x more frequently at trpA58 than at the trpA88 site. Using these and other data we also provide estimations of the fidelity contributions for mutT editing, proofreading and methyl-directed mismatch repair at the two trpA sites for both transversions and the transition that could be scored. In the case of A:T-->C:G transversions, both mutT editing and proofreading make major contributions in error reduction with mismatch repair playing a small or no role at all. For the A:T-->G:C transition, proofreading and mismatch repair were both important in preventing mutations while no contribution was observed for mutT editing.

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