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Cell. 1982 Nov;31(1):43-51.

Escherichia coli DNA topoisomerase I mutants have compensatory mutations in DNA gyrase genes.


Escherichia coli deletion mutants lacking DNA topoisomerase I have been identified previously and shown to grow at a normal rate. We show that such strains grow normally only because of spontaneously arising mutations that compensate for the topoisomerase I defect. Several of these compensatory mutations have been found to map at or near the genes encoding DNA gyrase, gyrA and gyrB. DNA gyrase assays of crude extracts show that strains carrying the mutations have lower gyrase activity. Thus the mutations are in the gyrase structural genes or in nearby regulatory sequences. These results, in conjunction with DNA supercoiling measurements of others, indicate that in vivo DNA superhelicity is a result of a balance between topoisomerase I and gyrase activities. An excess of negative supercoils due to an absence of topoisomerase I is deleterious to the cell, but a moderate gyrase deficiency is not harmful.

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