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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Apr 25;92(9):3958-62.

Increased sensitivity to gamma irradiation in bacteria lacking protein HU.

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Laboratoire de Physiologie Bactérienne, Institut de Biologie, Physico-Chimique, Paris, France.


The heterodimeric HU protein, isolated from Escherichia coli, is associated with the bacterial nucleoid and shares some properties with both histones and HMG proteins. It is the prototype of small bacterial DNA binding proteins with a pleiotropic role in the cell. HU participates in several biological processes like cell division, initiation of DNA replication, transposition, and other biochemical functions. We show here that bacteria lacking HU are extremely sensitive to gamma irradiation. Expression of either one of the subunits of HU in the hupAB double mutant nearly restores the normal survival rate. This shows that the sensitivity is due to the absence of HU rather than being the result of a secondary mutation occurring in the hupAB cells or a modification of the SOS repair system, since SOS genes are induced normally in the absence of HU. Finally, in vitro studies give an indication of its potential role: HU protects DNA against cleavage by gamma-rays.

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