Background: With the advent of sequence-based approaches in the mutagenesis studies, it is now possible to directly evaluate the genome-wide pattern of experimentally induced DNA sequence changes for a diverse array of organisms. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the mutational bias inherent in mouse ENU mutagenesis, this study describes a detailed evaluation of the induced mutational pattern obtained from a sequence-based screen of ENU-mutagenized mice.
Results: Based on a large-scale screening data, we derive the sequence-based estimates of the nucleotide-specific pattern and frequency of ENU-induced base replacement mutation in the mouse germline, which are then combined with the pattern of codon usage in the mouse coding sequences to infer the spectrum of amino acid changes obtained by ENU mutagenesis. We detect a statistically significant difference between the mutational patterns in phenotype- versus sequence-based screens, which presumably reflects differential phenotypic effects caused by different amino acid replacements. We also demonstrate that the mutations exhibit strong strand asymmetry, and that this imbalance is generated by transcription, most likely as a by-product of transcription-coupled DNA repair in the germline.
Conclusion: The results clearly illustrate the biased nature of ENU-induced mutations. We expect that a precise understanding of the mutational pattern and frequency of induced nucleotide changes would be of practical importance when designing sequence-based screening strategies to generate mutant mouse strains harboring amino acid variants at specific loci. More generally, by enhancing the collection of experimentally induced mutations in unambiguously defined genomic regions, sequence-based mutagenesis studies will further illuminate the molecular basis of mutagenic and repair mechanisms that preferentially produce a certain class of mutational changes over others.