Mutagenic mechanisms associated with perturbations of DNA precursor biosynthesis in phage T4 Public Deposited

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  • A crucial factor in determining the accuracy of DNA replication is maintenance of a balanced supply of deoxyribonucleoside triphosphates (dNTPs) at replication forks. Perturbation of dNTP biosynthesis can induce dNTP pool imbalance with deleterious genetic consequences, including increased mutagenesis, recombination, chromosomal abnormalities and cell death. Using the T4 bacteriophage system, I investigated the molecular basis of mutations induced by imbalanced dNTP pools in vivo. Two approaches were adopted to disturb dNTP biosynthesis: 1) using mutations which affect the deoxyribonucleotide biosynthesis pathway; 2) exogenously supplying mutagenic deoxyribonucleoside analogs which are then taken up by cells and are metabolized to dNTPs. The levels of dNTPs under different conditions were measured in crude extracts of phage-infected cells, while mutagenic effects were quantitated by analysis of certain rII mutations, thought to revert to wild type along either GC-to-AT or AT-to-GC transition pathways. The mutation pathways stimulated by dNTP pool perturbations were confirmed by direct DNA sequencing after amplification of template by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). By replacing phage ribonucleotide (rNDP) reductase with the host, Escherichia coli, rNDP reductase, in phage-infected cells, I examined the mechanism of mutation induced by the thymidine analog 5- bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd) in vivo. Although both AT-to-GC and GC-to- AT transition mutations were stimulated many hundred-fold when cells were grown in medium containing 100 μM BrdUrd, GC-to-AT transitions were stimulated predominantly when T4 reductase was active, while ATto- GC transitions were stimulated more when E. coli reductase was active. By examining the control by dNTPs on CDP reduction, I found that the T4 rNDP reductase is substantially inhibited by either BrdUTP or dTTP in crude enzyme extracts. These experimental results are consistent with the hypothesis that mutagenic effects of BrdUrd are based on dNTP perturbations, supporting the model that rNDP reductase is a major determinant of BrdUrd mutagenesis. I also studied the mutator phenotype of one temperature-sensitive conditional lethal mutant, T4 ts LB3, which specifies a thermolabile T4 deoxycytidylate (dCMP) hydroxymethylase. At the sites of different rII mutations, I found 8- to 80-fold stimulation of GC-to-AT transitions induced by ts LB3 at a semipermissive temperature (34° C). Sequence analysis of revertants from the most sensitive gene marker, rII SN103, showed that either cytosine within the mutated triplet can undergo change to either thymidine or adenine, supporting a model in which mutagenesis induced by ts LB3 at a semipermissive temperature is based on dNTP pool perturbations. The putative depletion of hydroxymethyldeoxycytidine triphosphate (hm-dCTP) caused by the temperature-labile dCMP hydroxymethylase presumably enlarges effective dTTP/hm-dCTP and dATP/hm-dCTP pool ratios, resulting in the observed C-to-T transition and C-to-A transversion mutations. However, no significant dNTP pool abnormalities were observed in extracts from ts LB3 phageinfected cells even when cells were grown at the semi-permissive temperature, suggesting that imbalanced dNTP pools occurred only locally, close to replication forks. These results support a model of dNTP "functional compartmentation", in which DNA replication is fed by a small and rapidly depleted pool, with the bulk of measurable dNTP in a cell representing a replication-inactive pool. To further characterize the mutagenic specificity and DNA site specificity induced by T4 ts LB3, I developed a fast forward mutation approach using thymidine kinase as a marker gene. The studies confirmed that the principal mutagenic effect induced by ts LB3 is C-to- T transition, while C-to-A transversion mutagenesis also occurs. Analysis of DNA sequences around each mutation also suggests that local DNA context influences mutation frequency.
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