Differential requirements of two recA mutants for constitutive SOS expression in Escherichia coli K-12

PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e4100. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004100. Epub 2008 Dec 31.


Background: Repairing DNA damage begins with its detection and is often followed by elicitation of a cellular response. In E. coli, RecA polymerizes on ssDNA produced after DNA damage and induces the SOS Response. The RecA-DNA filament is an allosteric effector of LexA auto-proteolysis. LexA is the repressor of the SOS Response. Not all RecA-DNA filaments, however, lead to an SOS Response. Certain recA mutants express the SOS Response (recA(C)) in the absence of external DNA damage in log phase cells.

Methodology/principal findings: Genetic analysis of two recA(C) mutants was used to determine the mechanism of constitutive SOS (SOS(C)) expression in a population of log phase cells using fluorescence of single cells carrying an SOS reporter system (sulAp-gfp). SOS(C) expression in recA4142 mutants was dependent on its initial level of transcription, recBCD, recFOR, recX, dinI, xthA and the type of medium in which the cells were grown. SOS(C) expression in recA730 mutants was affected by none of the mutations or conditions tested above.

Conclusions/significance: It is concluded that not all recA(C) alleles cause SOS(C) expression by the same mechanism. It is hypothesized that RecA4142 is loaded on to a double-strand end of DNA and that the RecA filament is stabilized by the presence of DinI and destabilized by RecX. RecFOR regulate the activity of RecX to destabilize the RecA filament. RecA730 causes SOS(C) expression by binding to ssDNA in a mechanism yet to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli K12 / classification
  • Escherichia coli K12 / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli K12 / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation*
  • Rec A Recombinases / genetics*
  • Rec A Recombinases / metabolism
  • SOS Response, Genetics / physiology*


  • DinI protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • RecX protein, E coli
  • Rec A Recombinases