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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 May;36(8):2581-93. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn097. Epub 2008 Mar 11.

Real-time kinetics of restriction-modification gene expression after entry into a new host cell.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Toledo Health Sciences Campus, Toledo, OH 43614-2598, USA.


Most type II restriction-modification (R-M) systems produce separate restriction endonuclease (REase) and methyltransferase (MTase) proteins. After R-M system genes enter a new cell, protective MTase must appear before REase to avoid host chromosome cleavage. The basis for this apparent temporal regulation is not well understood. PvuII and some other R-M systems appear to achieve this delay by cotranscribing the REase gene with the gene for an autogenous transcription activator/repressor (the 'C' protein C.PvuII). To test this model, bacteriophage M13 was used to introduce the PvuII genes into a bacterial population in a relatively synchronous manner. REase mRNA and activity appeared approximately 10 min after those of the MTase, but never rose if there was an inactivating pvuIIC mutation. Infection with recombinant M13pvuII phage had little effect on cell growth, relative to infection with parental M13. However, infection of cells pre-expressing C.PvuII led to cessation of growth. This study presents the first direct demonstration of delayed REase expression, relative to MTase, when type II R-M genes enter a new host cell. Surprisingly, though the C and REase genes are cotranscribed, the pvuIIC portion of the mRNA was more abundant than the pvuIIR portion after stable establishment of the R-M system.

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