Specificity of Spontaneous Mutations Induced in mutA Mutator Cells

Mutat Res. 2004 Apr 14;548(1-2):9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2003.12.005.


Escherichia coli cells expressing the mutA allele of a glyV (glycine tRNA) gene express a strong mutator phenotype. The mutA allele differs from the wild type glyV gene by a base substitution in the anticodon such that the resulting tRNA misreads certain aspartate codons as glycine, resulting in random, low-level Asp-->Gly substitutions in proteins. Subsequent work showed that many types of mistranslation can lead to a very similar phenotype, named TSM for translational stress-induced mutagenesis. Here, we have determined the specificity of forward mutations occurring in the lacI gene in mutA cells as well as in wild type cells. Our results show that in comparison to wild type cells, base substitutions are elevated 23-fold in mutA cells, as against a eight-fold increase in insertions and a five-fold increase in deletions. Among base substitutions, transitions are elevated 13-fold, with both G:C-->A:T and A:T-->G:C mutations showing roughly similar increases. Transversions are elevated 35-fold, with G:C-->T:A, G:C-->C:G and A:T-->C:G elevated 28-, 13- and 27-fold, respectively. A:T-->T:A mutations increase a striking 348-fold over parental cells, with most occurring at two hotspot sequences that share the G:C-rich sequence 5'-CCGCGTGG. The increase in transversion mutations is similar to that observed in cells defective for dnaQ, the gene encoding the proofreading function of DNA polymerase III. In particular, the relative proportions and sites of occurrence of A:T-->T:A transversions are similar in mutA and mutD5 (an allele of dnaQ) cells. Interestingly, transversions are also the predominant base substitutions induced in dnaE173 cells in which a missense mutation in the alpha subunit of polymerase III abolishes proofreading without affecting the 3'-->5' exonuclease activity of the epsilon subunit.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriocins
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Lac Repressors
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Operator Regions, Genetic
  • Peptides / genetics*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacteriocins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Lac Repressors
  • LacI protein, E coli
  • Peptides
  • Repressor Proteins
  • mutacin II prepeptide, bacteria