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J Bacteriol. 2016 Sep 22;198(20):2853-63. doi: 10.1128/JB.00262-16. Print 2016 Oct 15.

A Synonymous Mutation Upstream of the Gene Encoding a Weak-Link Enzyme Causes an Ultrasensitive Response in Growth Rate.

Author information

1
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
2
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
3
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA shelley.copley@colorado.edu.

Abstract

When microbes are faced with an environmental challenge or opportunity, preexisting enzymes with promiscuous secondary activities can be recruited to provide newly important functions. Mutations that increase the efficiency of a new activity often compromise the original activity, resulting in an inefficient bifunctional enzyme. We have investigated the mechanisms by which growth of Escherichia coli can be improved when fitness is limited by such an enzyme, E383A ProA (ProA*). ProA* can serve the functions of both ProA (required for synthesis of proline) and ArgC (required for synthesis of arginine), albeit poorly. We identified four genetic changes that improve the growth rate by up to 6.2-fold. Two point mutations in the promoter of the proBA* operon increase expression of the entire operon. Massive amplification of a genomic segment around the proBA* operon also increases expression of the entire operon. Finally, a synonymous point mutation in the coding region of proB creates a new promoter for proA* This synonymous mutation increases the level of ProA* by 2-fold but increases the growth rate by 5-fold, an ultrasensitive response likely arising from competition between two substrates for the active site of the inefficient bifunctional ProA*.

IMPORTANCE:

The high-impact synonymous mutation we discovered in proB is remarkable for two reasons. First, most polar effects documented in the literature are detrimental. This finding demonstrates that polar effect mutations can have strongly beneficial effects, especially when an organism is facing a difficult environmental challenge for which it is poorly adapted. Furthermore, the consequence of the synonymous mutation in proB is a 2-fold increase in the level of ProA* but a disproportionately large 5.1-fold increase in growth rate. While ultrasensitive responses are often found in signaling networks and genetic circuits, an ultrasensitive response to an adaptive mutation has not been previously reported.

PMID:
27501982
PMCID:
PMC5038006
DOI:
10.1128/JB.00262-16
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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