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J Bacteriol. 1988 Feb;170(2):540-6.

Escherichia coli genes whose products are involved in selenium metabolism.

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Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Universität München, Federal Republic of Germany.


Mutants of Escherichia coli were isolated which were affected in the formation of both formate dehydrogenase N (phenazine methosulfate reducing) (FDHN) and formate dehydrogenase H (benzylviologen reducing) (FDHH). They were analyzed, together with previously characterized pleiotropic fdh mutants (fdhA, fdhB, and fdhC), for their ability to incorporate selenium into the selenopolypeptide subunits of FDHN and FDHH. Eight of the isolated strains, along with the fdhA and fdhC mutants, maintained the ability to selenylate tRNA, but were unable to insert selenocysteine into the two selenopolypeptides. The fdhB mutant tested had lost the ability to incorporate selenium into both protein and tRNA. fdhF, which is the gene coding for the 80-kilodalton selenopolypeptide of FDHH, was expressed from the T7 promoter-polymerase system in the pleiotropic fdh mutants. A truncated polypeptide of 15 kilodaltons was formed; but no full-length (80-kilodalton) gene product was detected, indicating that translation terminates at the UGA codon directing the insertion of selenocysteine. A mutant fdhF gene in which the UGA was changed to UCA expressed the 80-kilodalton gene product exclusively. This strongly supports the notion that the pleiotropic fdh mutants analyzed possess a lesion in the gene(s) encoding the biosynthesis or the incorporation of selenocysteine. The gene complementing the defect in one of the isolated mutants was cloned from a cosmid library. Subclones were tested for complementation of other pleiotropic fdh mutants. The results revealed that the mutations in the eight isolates fell into two complementation groups, one of them containing the fdhA mutation. fdhB, fdhC, and two of the new fdh isolates do not belong to these complementation groups. A new nomenclature (sel) is proposed for pleiotropic fdh mutations affecting selenium metabolism. Four genes have been identified so far: selA and selB (at the fdhA locus), selC (previously fdhC), and selD (previously fdhB).

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