Restriction–modification (R-M) systems are able to methylate or cleave DNA depending on methylation status of their recognition site. It allows them to protect bacterial cells from invasion by foreign DNA. Comparative analysis of a large number of available bacterial genomes and methylomes clearly demonstrates that the role of R-M systems in bacteria is wider than only defense. R-M systems maintain heterogeneity of a bacterial population and are involved in adaptation of bacteria to change in their environmental conditions. R-M systems can be essential for host colonization by pathogenic bacteria. Phase variation and intragenomic recombinations are sources of the fast evolution of the specificity of R-M systems. This review focuses on the influence of R-M systems on evolution and ecology of prokaryotes.
Type I restriction enzymes (REases) are large pentameric proteins with separate restriction (R), methylation (M) and DNA sequence-recognition (S) subunits. They were the first REases to be discovered and purified, but unlike the enormously useful Type II REases, they have yet to find a place in the enzymatic toolbox of molecular biologists. Type I enzymes have been difficult to characterize, but this is changing as genome analysis reveals their genes, and methylome analysis reveals their recognition sequences. Several Type I REases have been studied in detail and what has been learned about them invites greater attention. In this article, we discuss aspects of the biochemistry, biology and regulation of Type I REases, and of the mechanisms that bacteriophages and plasmids have evolved to evade them. Type I REases have a remarkable ability to change sequence specificity by domain shuffling and rearrangements. We summarize the classic experiments and observations that led to this discovery, and we discuss how this ability depends on the modular organizations of the enzymes and of their S subunits. Finally, we describe examples of Type II restriction-modification systems that have features in common with Type I enzymes, with emphasis on the varied Type IIG enzymes.
Restriction-modification (R-M) systems are often regarded as bacteria’s innate immune systems, protecting cells from infection by mobile genetic elements (MGEs). Their diversification has been recently associated with the emergence of particularly virulent lineages. However, we have previously found more R-M systems in genomes carrying more MGEs. Furthermore, it has been suggested that R-M systems might favor genetic transfer by producing recombinogenic double-stranded DNA ends. To test whether R-M systems favor or disfavor genetic exchanges, we analyzed their frequency with respect to the inferred events of homologous recombination and horizontal gene transfer within 79 bacterial species. Genetic exchanges were more frequent in bacteria with larger genomes and in those encoding more R-M systems. We created a recognition target motif predictor for Type II R-M systems that identifies genomes encoding systems with similar restriction sites. We found more genetic exchanges between these genomes, independently of their evolutionary distance. Our results reconcile previous studies by showing that R-M systems are more abundant in promiscuous species, wherein they establish preferential paths of genetic exchange within and between lineages with cognate R-M systems. Because the repertoire and/or specificity of R-M systems in bacterial lineages vary quickly, the preferential fluxes of genetic transfer within species are expected to constantly change, producing time-dependent networks of gene transfer.
Structure of Type IIL restriction-modification enzyme MmeI in complex with DNA has implications for engineering new specificities.
The creation of restriction enzymes with programmable DNA-binding and -cleavage specificities has long been a goal of modern biology. The recently discovered Type IIL MmeI family of restriction-and-modification (RM) enzymes that possess a shared target recognition domain provides a framework for engineering such new specificities. However, a lack of structural information on Type IIL enzymes has limited the repertoire that can be rationally engineered. We report here a crystal structure of MmeI in complex with its DNA substrate and an S-adenosylmethionine analog (Sinefungin). The structure uncovers for the first time the interactions that underlie MmeI-DNA recognition and methylation (5′-TCCRAC-3′; R = purine) and provides a molecular basis for changing specificity at four of the six base pairs of the recognition sequence (5′-TCCRAC-3′). Surprisingly, the enzyme is resilient to specificity changes at the first position of the recognition sequence (5′-TCCRAC-3′). Collectively, the structure provides a basis for engineering further derivatives of MmeI and delineates which base pairs of the recognition sequence are more amenable to alterations than others.
Expression and purification of the modification-dependent restriction enzyme BisI and its homologous enzymes.
The methylation-dependent restriction endonuclease (REase) BisI (G(m5)C???NGC) is found in Bacillus subtilis T30. We expressed and purified the BisI endonuclease and 34 BisI homologs identified in bacterial genomes. 23 of these BisI homologs are active based on digestion of (m5)C-modified substrates. Two major specificities were found among these BisI family enzymes: Group I enzymes cut GCNGC containing two to four (m5)C in the two strands, or hemi-methylated sites containing two (m5)C in one strand; Group II enzymes only cut GCNGC sites containing three to four (m5)C, while one enzyme requires all four cytosines to be modified for cleavage. Another homolog, Esp638I cleaves GCS???SGC (relaxed specificity RCN???NGY, containing at least four (m5)C). Two BisI homologs show degenerate specificity cleaving unmodified DNA. Many homologs are small proteins ranging from 150 to 190 amino acid (aa) residues, but some homologs associated with mobile genetic elements are larger and contain an extra C-terminal domain. More than 156 BisI homologs are found in >60 bacterial genera, indicating that these enzymes are widespread in bacteria. They may play an important biological function in restricting pre-modified phage DNA.