The intrinsically disordered linker in the single-stranded DNA-binding protein influences DNA replication restart and recombination pathways in Escherichia coli K-12

J Bacteriol. 2024 Apr 18;206(4):e0033023. doi: 10.1128/jb.00330-23. Epub 2024 Mar 12.


Tetrameric single-stranded (ss) DNA-binding proteins (SSBs) stabilize ssDNA intermediates formed during genome maintenance reactions in Bacteria. SSBs also recruit proteins important for these processes through direct SSB-protein interactions, including proteins involved in DNA replication restart and recombination processes. SSBs are composed of an N-terminal oligomerization and ssDNA-binding domain, a C-terminal acidic tip that mediates SSB-protein interactions, and an internal intrinsically disordered linker (IDL). Deletions and insertions into the IDL are well tolerated with few phenotypes, although the largest deletions and insertions exhibit some sensitivity to DNA-damaging agents. To define specific DNA metabolism processes dependent on IDL length, ssb mutants that lack 16, 26, 37, or 47 residues of the 57-residue IDL were tested for synthetic phenotypes with mutations in DNA replication restart or recombination genes. We also tested the impact of integrating a fluorescent domain within the SSB IDL using an ssb::mTur2 insertion mutation. Only the largest deletion tested or the insertion mutation causes sensitivity in any of the pathways. Mutations in two replication restart pathways (PriA-B1 and PriA-C) showed synthetic lethalities or small colony phenotypes with the largest deletion or insertion mutations. Recombination gene mutations del(recBCD) and del(ruvABC) show synthetic phenotypes only when combined with the largest ssb deletion. These results suggest that a minimum IDL length is important in some genome maintenance reactions in Escherichia coli. These include pathways involving PriA-PriB1, PriA-PriC, RecFOR, and RecG. The mTur2 insertion in the IDL may also affect SSB interactions in some processes, particularly the PriA-PriB1 and PriA-PriC replication restart pathways.IMPORTANCEssb is essential in Escherichia coli due to its roles in protecting ssDNA and coordinating genome maintenance events. While the DNA-binding core and acidic tip have well-characterized functions, the purpose of the intrinsically disordered linker (IDL) is poorly understood. In vitro studies have revealed that the IDL is important for cooperative ssDNA binding and phase separation. However, single-stranded (ss) DNA-binding protein (SSB) variants with large deletions and insertions in the IDL support normal cell growth. We find that the PriA-PriB1 and PriA-C replication restart, as well as the RecFOR- and RecG-dependent recombination, pathways are sensitive to IDL length. This suggests that cooperativity, phase separation, or a longer spacer between the core and acidic tip of SSB may be important for specific cellular functions.

Keywords: DNA repair; DNA replication restart; SOS response; homologous recombination.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli K12* / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DNA
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • PriC protein, E coli
  • PriB protein, E coli