The specificity of topoisomerase-mediated DNA cleavage defines acridine-induced frameshift specificity within a hotspot in bacteriophage T4

Genetics. 1991 Mar;127(3):453-62. doi: 10.1093/genetics/127.3.453.


Acridine-induced frameshift mutations in bacteriophage T4 occur at the precise location in the DNA at which acridines stimulate DNA cleavage by the T4-encoded type II topoisomerase in vitro. The mutations are duplications or deletions that begin precisely at the broken phosphodiester bond. In vivo, acridine-induced frameshift mutagenesis is reduced nearly to background levels when the topoisomerase is genetically inactivated. These observations are consistent with a model in which cleaved DNA, induced by the topoisomerase and acridine, serves as the substrate for the production of frameshift mutations at the same site. Our model predicts that the specificity and frequency of cleavage direct the specificity and frequency of mutagenesis. This prediction was tested by examining the influence of DNA sequence changes on topoisomerase-mediated cleavage and on mutagenesis in the T4 rIIB gene. The model successfully predicted the results. When DNA sequence changes altered the position of acridine-induced, topoisomerase-mediated DNA cleavage in vitro, frameshift mutations were found at the new positions. DNA sequence changes that strongly decreased in vitro cleavage also reduced mutagenesis at that site. These results demonstrate that acridine-induced frameshift mutation specificity is directed by the characteristics of the acridine-topoisomerase reaction and do not suggest that slipped pairing in repeated sequences plays a major role in acridine-induced frameshifts in bacteriophage T4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amsacrine / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Repair / drug effects
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / metabolism*
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Frameshift Mutation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Proflavine / pharmacology*
  • T-Phages / enzymology
  • T-Phages / genetics*


  • DNA, Viral
  • Amsacrine
  • Proflavine
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II