Engineering nicking enzymes that preferentially nick 5-methylcytosine-modified DNA

Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 May;42(9):e77. doi: 10.1093/nar/gku192. Epub 2014 Mar 7.


N.ϕGamma is a strand-specific and site-specific DNA nicking enzyme (YCG↓GT or AC↑CGR). Here we describe the isolation of single and double mutants of N.ϕGamma with attenuated activity. The nicking domains (NDs) of E59A and 11 double mutants were fused to the 5mCG-binding domain of MBD2 and generated fusion enzymes that preferentially nick 5mCG-modified DNA. The CG dinucleotide can be modified by C5 methyltransferases (MTases) such as M.SssI, M.HhaI or M.HpaII to create composite sites AC↑YGG N(8-15) 5mCG. We also constructed a fusion enzyme 2xMBD2-ND(N.BceSVIII) targeting more frequent composite sites AS↑YS N(5-12) 5mCG in Mn2+ buffer. 5mCG-dependent nicking requires special digestion conditions in high salt (0.3 M KCl) or in Ni2+ buffer. The fusion enzyme can be used to nick and label 5mCG-modified plasmid and genomic DNAs with fluorescently labeled Cy3-dUTP and potentially be useful for diagnostic applications, DNA sequencing and optical mapping of epigenetic markers. The importance of the predicted catalytic residues D89, H90, N106 and H115 in N.ϕGamma was confirmed by mutagenesis. We found that the wild-type enzyme N.ϕGamma prefers to nick 5mCG-modified DNA in Ni2+ buffer even though the nicking activity is sub-optimal compared to the activity in Mg2+ buffer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / chemistry*
  • Bacillus Phages / enzymology
  • Bacillus anthracis / virology
  • Base Sequence
  • Catalytic Domain
  • DNA Breaks, Single-Stranded
  • DNA Cleavage
  • DNA, Circular / chemistry
  • DNA, Circular / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / biosynthesis
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / chemistry
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / genetics*
  • Manganese / chemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids / chemistry
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Potassium Chloride / chemistry
  • Protein Engineering
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Viral Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*


  • DNA, Circular
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • Manganese
  • Potassium Chloride
  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific