Isolation and analysis of regulatory and structural mutations in the recA gene of Escherichia coli

Jane Marie Weisemann, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The recA gene is essential for homologous recombination and for inducible DNA repair in Escherichia coli. The level of recA expression is important for these functions. The growth defect of a lambda phage carrying a recA-lacZ fusion was used to select mutations that reduced recA expression. Nine of these mutations were single base changes in the recA promoter; each reduced both induced and basal (repressed) levels of expression, indicating that only one promoter is used under both circumstances. Deletion analysis of the promoter region and S1 mapping of transcripts confirmed that there is only one promoter responsible for both basal and induced expression. Some of the mutants, however, displayed a ratio of induced to repressed expression that was much lower than wild-type. For one of these mutants (recA1270) LexA binding studies showed that this was not due to a change in the affinity of LexA repressor for the operator site. The extent of binding of RNA polymerase to this mutant promoter, however, was much reduced, and the complexes formed were qualitatively different. Further binding experiments provided some evidence that LexA does not block RNA polymerase binding to the recA promoter, but inhibits a later step in initiation. Behavior of the mutants with altered induction ratios could be explained if LexA binding to the operator actually increases RNA polymerase binding to the promoter in a closed complex compensating for defects in polymerase binding caused by the mutations. In a study of mutations in the recA structural gene, site-directed mutagenesis was used to replace cysteine codons at positions 90, 116, and 129 with a number of different codons. In vivo analysis of the replacements showed that none of the cysteines is absolutely essential and that they do not have a direct role as catalysts in ATP hydrolysis. Some amino acid substitutions abolished all RecA functions, while a few resulted in partial or altered function. Amino acids at positions 90 and 129 tended to affect all functions equally, while the amino acid at position 116 appeared to have a particular effect on the protease activity of the protein.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Weisemann, Jane Marie, "Isolation and analysis of regulatory and structural mutations in the recA gene of Escherichia coli" (1988). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8826289.