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Mol Microbiol. 1998 May;28(4):823-34.

Lactococcus lactis phage operon coding for an endonuclease homologous to RuvC.

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INRA, Laboratoire de Génétique Microbienne, Jouy-en-Josas, France.


The function of the Lactococcus lactis bacteriophage bIL66 middle time-expressed operon (M-operon), involved in sensitivity to the abortive infection mechanism AbiD1, was examined. Expression of the M-operon is detrimental to Escherichia coli cells, induces the SOS response and is lethal to recA and recBC E. coli mutants, which are both deficient in recombinational repair of chromosomal double-stranded breaks (DSBs). The use of an inducible expression system allowed us to demonstrate that the M-operon-encoded proteins generate a limited number of randomly distributed chromosomal DSBs that are substrates for ExoV-mediated DNA degradation. DSBs were also shown to occur upstream of the replication initiation point of unidirectionally theta-replicating plasmids. The characteristics of the DSBs lead us to propose that the endonucleolytic activity of the M-operon is not specific to DNA sequence, but rather to branched DNA structures. Genetic and physical analysis performed with different derivatives of the M-operon indicated that two orfs (orf2 and orf3) are needed for nucleolytic activity. The orf3 product has amino acid homology with the E. coli RuvC Holliday junction resolvase. By site-specific mutagenesis, we have shown that one of the amino acid residues constituting the active centre of RuvC enzyme (Glu-66) and conserved in ORF3 (Glu-67) is essential for the nucleolytic activity of the M-operon gene product(s). We therefore propose that orf2 and orf3 of the M-operon code for a structure-specific endonuclease (M-nuclease), which might be essential for phage multiplication.

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