July 19, 2019  |  

An adenine code for DNA: A second life for N6-methyladenine.

DNA N6-methyladenine (6mA) protects against restriction enzymes in bacteria. However, isolated reports have suggested additional activities and its presence in other organisms, such as unicellular eukaryotes. New data now find that 6mA may have a gene regulatory function in green alga, worm, and fly, suggesting m6A as a potential “epigenetic” mark. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

July 7, 2019  |  

Type I restriction enzymes and their relatives.

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.

July 7, 2019  |  

Cell cycle constraints and environmental control of local DNA hypomethylation in a-proteobacteria.

Heritable DNA methylation imprints are ubiquitous and underlie genetic variability from bacteria to humans. In microbial genomes, DNA methylation has been implicated in gene transcription, DNA replication and repair, nucleoid segregation, transposition and virulence of pathogenic strains. Despite the importance of local (hypo)methylation at specific loci, how and when these patterns are established during the cell cycle remains poorly characterized. Taking advantage of the small genomes and the synchronizability of a-proteobacteria, we discovered that conserved determinants of the cell cycle transcriptional circuitry establish specific hypomethylation patterns in the cell cycle model system Caulobacter crescentus. We used genome-wide methyl-N6-adenine (m6A-) analyses by restriction-enzyme-cleavage sequencing (REC-Seq) and single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing to show that MucR, a transcriptional regulator that represses virulence and cell cycle genes in S-phase but no longer in G1-phase, occludes 5′-GANTC-3′ sequence motifs that are methylated by the DNA adenine methyltransferase CcrM. Constitutive expression of CcrM or heterologous methylases in at least two different a-proteobacteria homogenizes m6A patterns even when MucR is present and affects promoter activity. Environmental stress (phosphate limitation) can override and reconfigure local hypomethylation patterns imposed by the cell cycle circuitry that dictate when and where local hypomethylation is instated.

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