Methylation-Induced Hypermutation in Natural Populations of Bacteria.


:Methylation of DNA at the C-5 position of cytosine occurs in diverse organisms. This modification can increase the rate of C→T transitions at the methylated position. In Escherichia coli and related enteric bacteria, the inner C residues of the sequence CCWGG (W is A or T) are methylated by the Dcm enzyme. These sites are hot spots of mutation during rapid growth in the laboratory but not in nondividing cells, in which repair by the Vsr protein is effective. It has been suggested that hypermutation at these sites is a laboratory artifact and does not occur in nature. Many other methyltransferases, with a variety of specificities, can be found in bacteria, usually associated with restriction enzymes and confined to a subset of the population. Their methylation targets are also possible sites of hypermutation. Here, I show using whole-genome sequence data for thousands of isolates that there is indeed considerable hypermutation at Dcm sites in natural populations: their transition rate is approximately eight times the average. I also demonstrate hypermutability of targets of restriction-associated methyltransferases in several distantly related bacteria: methylation increases the transition rate by a factor ranging from 12 to 58. In addition, I demonstrate how patterns of hypermutability inferred from massive sequence data can be used to determine previously unknown methylation patterns and methyltransferase specificities.IMPORTANCE A common type of DNA modification, addition of a methyl group to cytosine (C) at carbon atom C-5, can greatly increase the rate of mutation of the C to a T. In mammals, methylation of CG sequences increases the rate of CG→TG mutations. It is unknown whether cytosine C-5 methylation increases the mutation rate in bacteria under natural conditions. I show that sites methylated by the Dcm enzyme exhibit an 8-fold increase in mutation rate in natural bacterial populations. I also show that modifications at other sites in various bacteria also increase the mutation rate, in some cases by a factor of forty or more. Finally, I demonstrate how this phenomenon can be used to infer sequence specificities of methylation enzymes.


J Bacteriol


Journal of bacteriology


Cherry JL




Has Abstract


2018-11-26 00:00:00












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