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Gang Feng

Advisor: Malcolm Winkler, Ph.D.

Post-replication DNA mismatch repair plays crucial roles in mutation avoidance and maintenance of chromosome stability in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In humans, deficiency in this repair system causes the formation of cancers. The biochemistry of the repair system has been best studied in a model bacterium Escherichia coli. In this thesis, regulation of expression of mutS, mutL and mutH genes, whose products mediate methyl-directed mismatch (MDM) repair in E. coli, is investigated. One-step affinity purification schemes were developed to purify E. coli MutS, MutL and MutH proteins fused to His-6-affinity tag. His-6-MutS exhibited the same mismatch binding activity and specificity as the native MutS protein. Purified His-6-MutS, -MutL and -MutH proteins were used to develop quantitative Western blotting assays for amounts of MutS, MutL and MutH proteins under various conditions. It was found that the three proteins were present in relatively low amounts in exponentially growing cells and MutS and MutH diminished in stationary-phase cells. Further studies indicated that the drop in the amounts of MutS and MutH proteins in stationary-phase cells was mediated through RpoS, a key global regulator of stationary-phase transition. In both exponential- and stationary-phase cells, MutS amount was also negatively regulated by Hfq (HF-1) global regulator, which is required for RpoS translation, through an RpoS-independent mechanism. b-galactosidase assays of mutS-ÐlacZ operon and gene fusions suggested that hfq regulates mutS posttranscriptionally, and RNase T2 protection assays revealed that Hfq destabilizes mutS transcripts in exponentially growing cells. To study the relation between regulation of MDM repair and mutagenesis, amounts of MutS, MutL and MutH were measured in starved cells undergoing adaptive mutagenesis. It was found that MutS amount dropped drastically, MutH amount dropped slightly, whereas MutL amount remained essentially constant in starved cells. Overexpression of MutL did not reverse the drop in the amounts of MutS or MutH protein. These results ruled out several explanations for a phenomenon in which overexpression of MutL, but not MutS, reversed adaptive mutagenesis. The findings further suggested that functional MutL is limiting during adaptive mutagenesis. The implications of regulation of the MDM repair are discussed in the context of mutagenesis, pathogenesis and tumorogenesis.

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Research Info

Regulation of The Expression of MutS, MutL, and MutH Mismatch Repair Genes in Escherichia coli K-12