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J Biol Chem. 1979 Dec 25;254(24):12684-93.

A new system for studying molecular mechanisms of mutation by carcinogens.


A new system for studying the molecular mechanisms of mutation by carcinogens is described. The system involves (a) site-specific modification of the essential gene G in phi X174 replicative form DNA by a combination of chemical and enzymatic steps; (b) production of mutant virus carrying a change at a single preselected site by transfection of spheroplasts with the site modified phi X174 DNA; (c) detection and propagation of mutants using a host carrying the plasmid, p phi XG, that rescues all type of gene G mutants by complementation; (d) identification of the mutation in the progeny virus by isolating and sequencing mutant phi X174 DNA in the region that carried the parental, site-specific change. To demonstrate that this system is operational, we have produced a previously unknown phi X174 gene G mutant carrying a C leads to T base change at position 2401 of the viral (plus) strand. This preplanned, nonsense (amber) mutant was obtained by changing G to A at the appropriate position in a chemically synthesized, octadeoxynucleotide, minus strand primer; elongating this enzymatically with Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I (larger fragment) (lacking 5' leads to 3' exonuclease activity) to a 17-mer; and repriming to obtain the site-modified phi X174 replicative form DNA enzymatically with E. coli DNA polymerase I (large fragment) and T4 DNA ligase. After transfection of spheroplasts with the heteroduplex DNA, the lysate was screened for mutant virus with permissive (carrying p phi XG) and nonpermissive (without p phi XG) host cells. About 1% of the progeny virus were mutants. Out of 15 isolates, 11 were suppressible by an amber Su1+ (serine) or an ochre Su8+ (glutamine) suppressor. The other 4 isolates were not suppressed at all. Replicative form DNA produced from one of the suppressible mutants was shown (by sequencing) to contain the expected C leads to T change at the preselected site in the viral strand. Replicative form DNA from one of the nonsuppressible mutants was partially sequenced. No change was found at or around position 2401. The nature of the mutation(s) in these isolates is still unknown. The occurrence of mutations outside the preselected sites represent a potential problem for our projected studies, but additional data is required before the problem can be fully evaluated. In spite of this, it should be possible to study, in vivo, the biological effects of any site-specific modification (including covalent modifications by carcinogens) that can be introduced into gene G of phi X174 DNA via a synthetic, oligonucleotide primer.

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