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EMBO J. 1993 Dec;12(12):4585-91.

Macroevolution by transposition: drastic modification of DNA recognition by a type I restriction enzyme following Tn5 transposition.

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Department of Microbiology, Biozentrum, Basel University, Switzerland.


We have characterized a novel mutant of EcoDXXI, a type IC DNA restriction and modification (R-M) system, in which the specificity has been altered due to a Tn5 insertion into the middle of hsdS, the gene which encodes the polypeptide that confers DNA sequence specificity to both the restriction and the modification reactions. Like other type I enzymes, the wild type EcoDXXI recognizes a sequence composed of two asymmetrical half sites separated by a spacer region: TCA(N7)RTTC. Purification of the EcoDXXI mutant methylase and subsequent in vitro DNA methylation assays identified the mutant recognition sequence as an interrupted palindrome, TCA(N8)TGA, in which the 5' half site of the wild type site is repeated in inverse orientation. The additional base pair in the non-specific spacer of the mutant recognition sequence maintains the proper spacing between the two methylatable adenine groups. Sequencing of both the wild type and mutant EcoDXXI hsdS genes showed that the Tn5 insertion occurred at nucleotide 673 of the 1221 bp gene. This effectively deletes the entire carboxyl-terminal DNA binding domain which recognizes the 3' half of the EcoDXXI binding site. The truncated hsdS gene still encodes both the amino-terminal DNA binding domain and the conserved repeated sequence that defines the length of the recognition site spacer region. We propose that the EcoDXXI mutant methylase utilizes two truncated hsdS subunits to recognize its binding site. The implications of this finding in terms of subunit interactions and the malleability of the type I R-M systems will be discussed.

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