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Biochimie. 1989 Jun;71(6):721-8.

Reversion of trpA nonsense mutations by deletion of the chain-termination codons.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


This paper describes a novel mechanism for reversion of nonsense mutations in the trpA gene of Escherichia coli. This mechanism, deletion of the nonsense codon, was discovered in the course of selecting for missense revertants of trpA(UGA211) and for catalytically active tryptophan synthetase alpha chain revertants of trpA(UAA234) and trpA(UAG234). Each type of revertant trpA was cloned and its DNA sequence determined. trpA(UGA211) gave rise to two previously unidentified types of missense revertant. The first type was expected, namely trpA(CGA211), the result of a base substitution event. The other type, representing approximately 1% of the missense revertants, was unexpected on the basis of single base substitutions and an understanding of which amino acids are functional at alpha chain position 211. It was found to be the result of a 21 base-pair deletion of a region containing codon 211. The tryptophan-independent revertants of both position 234 nonsense mutants occurred at a frequency of approximately 2 per 10(9) viable cells. They were identical in that they both resulted from a 3 base-pair deletion, namely deletion of the chain-terminating codon at position 234. One of them, however, also displayed an A instead of the normal G in the third position of codon 235. The revertants were characterized according to growth in different media and tryptophan synthetase assays performed on crude extracts. These types of mutants should prove interesting and important for the elucidation of alpha chain structure-function relationships, for insight into the assembly and interaction of subunits in this model multienzyme complex, and for the study of mechanisms by which deletions can be generated.

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