Spontaneous transposition in the bacteriophage lambda cro gene residing on a plasmid

Mutat Res. 1992 May;267(1):139-51. doi: 10.1016/0027-5107(92)90118-l.


A new mutagenesis assay system based on the phage lambda cro repressor gene residing on a plasmid was developed. The assay detects mutations in cro that decrease the binding of the repressor to the OR operator in an OR PR-lacZ fusion present in a lambda prophage. Mutations arose spontaneously during growth of E. coli cells harboring cro plasmids at a frequency of 3-6 x 10(-6). Analysis of some 200 cro mutants from several 'wild-type' strains revealed a substantial fraction of 25-70% insertion events caused by transposition of IS elements. Most of the insertions were caused by IS1, but IS5 insertions were observed too. In strains harboring Tn10, IS10 was responsible for most insertions. Restriction nuclease digestion analysis revealed a preference for insertion of IS10 into the C-terminal half of cro, despite the absence of sequences which are known hot spots for Tn10 insertions. The frequency of IS1 insertions into cro decreased 25-60-fold and that of IS10 insertions decreased 200-fold in cells carrying the recA56 mutation, suggesting that RecA is involved in transposition of these elements. During the logarithmic phase of growth, the mutation frequency was constant for at least 22 generations; however, upon continuous incubation at the stationary phase, the mutation frequency gradually increased, yielding a 3-fold increase in the frequency of insertion and a 4-5-fold increase in point mutation. Genomic Southern analysis of chromosomal IS elements in cells which underwent a transposition from the chromosome into the cro plasmid revealed that the number and distribution of IS1 and IS5 were usually unaltered compared to cells which did not undergo a transposition event. In contrast, essentially each IS10 transposition was accompanied by multiple events which led to changes in the number and distribution of chromosomal IS10 elements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage lambda / genetics*
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Lysogeny
  • Mutagenicity Tests*
  • Plasmids
  • Rec A Recombinases / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Serine Endopeptidases*
  • Viral Structural Proteins / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • LexA protein, Bacteria
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Viral Structural Proteins
  • Rec A Recombinases
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • UvrA protein, E coli
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases