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Kaminska, R and van der Woude, MW (2010) Establishing and maintaining sequestration of Dam target sites for phase variation of agn43 in Escherichia coli. J. Bacteriol. 192:1937-45


Phase variation of the outer membrane protein Ag43 encoded by agn43 in Escherichia coli is controlled by an epigenetic mechanism. Sequestration of the regulatory region from Dam-dependent methylation has to be established and maintained throughout a generation to obtain and maintain the OFF phase. This work shows that hemimethylated DNA, which is formed by the passage of the DNA replication fork in an ON-phase cell, can be sequestered from methylation by OxyR binding, which is thus a key event for the switch from ON to OFF. No evidence was found that the protein SeqA, which also binds to the region, is involved in sequestration. To facilitate the dissection of this process further, a novel approach was introduced that does not alter the sequence of the regulatory region or the cellular concentration of Dam or OxyR, which consists of inserting auxiliary OxyR binding sites upstream of the regulatory region. Using this strategy, it was shown that the ON-to-OFF switch frequency can be modulated without changing the OFF-to-ON frequency. The data support a model in which in an ON-phase cell, the subcellular OxyR availability at the replication fork as it passes through the agn43 regulatory region is key for initiating an ON-to-OFF switch. In contrast, this availability is not a determining factor for the switch from OFF to ON. This finding shows that different variables affect these two stochastic events. This provides new insight into the events determining the stochastic nature of epigenetic phase variation.


PubMed PMC2838033 Online version:10.1128/JB.01629-09


Adhesins, Bacterial/biosynthesis; DNA, Bacterial/metabolism; Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay; Epigenesis, Genetic; Escherichia coli/genetics; Escherichia coli/physiology; Escherichia coli Proteins/biosynthesis; Escherichia coli Proteins/metabolism; Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial; Models, Biological; Protein Binding; Repressor Proteins/metabolism; Site-Specific DNA-Methyltransferase (Adenine-Specific)/metabolism


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