Flexibility in MuA transposase family protein structures: functional mapping with scanning mutagenesis and sequence alignment of protein homologues

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37922. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037922. Epub 2012 May 29.


MuA transposase protein is a member of the retroviral integrase superfamily (RISF). It catalyzes DNA cleavage and joining reactions via an initial assembly and subsequent structural transitions of a protein-DNA complex, known as the Mu transpososome, ultimately attaching transposon DNA to non-specific target DNA. The transpososome functions as a molecular DNA-modifying machine and has been used in a wide variety of molecular biology and genetics/genomics applications. To analyze structure-function relationships in MuA action, a comprehensive pentapeptide insertion mutagenesis was carried out for the protein. A total of 233 unique insertion variants were generated, and their activity was analyzed using a quantitative in vivo DNA transposition assay. The results were then correlated with the known MuA structures, and the data were evaluated with regard to the protein domain function and transpososome development. To complement the analysis with an evolutionary component, a protein sequence alignment was produced for 44 members of MuA family transposases. Altogether, the results pinpointed those regions, in which insertions can be tolerated, and those where insertions are harmful. Most insertions within the subdomains Iγ, IIα, IIβ, and IIIα completely destroyed the transposase function, yet insertions into certain loop/linker regions of these subdomains increased the protein activity. Subdomains Iα and IIIβ were largely insertion-tolerant. The comprehensive structure-function data set will be useful for designing MuA transposase variants with improved properties for biotechnology/genomics applications, and is informative with regard to the function of RISF proteins in general.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Computational Biology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Alignment*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transposases / chemistry*
  • Transposases / genetics
  • Transposases / metabolism*


  • Transposases