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EMBO J. 1984 Apr;3(4):707-12.

SOS mutator effect in E. coli mutants deficient in mismatch correction.


We have used bacteriophage lambda to characterize the mutator effect of the SOS response induced by u.v. irradiation of Escherichia coli. Mutagenesis of unirradiated phages grown in irradiated or unirradiated bacteria was detected by measuring forward mutagenesis in the immunity genes or reversion mutagenesis of an amber codon in the R gene. Relative to the wild-type, the SOS mutator effect was higher in E. coli mismatch correction-deficient mutants (mutH, mutL and mutS) and lower in an adenine methylation-deficient mutant ( dam3 ). We conclude that a large proportion of SOS-induced 'untargeted' mutations are removed by the methyl-directed mismatch correction system, which acts on newly synthesized DNA strands. The lower SOS mutator effect observed in E. coli dam mutants may be due to a selective killing of mismatch-bearing chromosomes resulting from undirected mismatch repair. The SOS mutator effect on undamaged lambda DNA, induced by u.v. irradiation of the host, appears to result from decreased fidelity of DNA synthesis.

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