Immunity of replicating Mu to self-integration: a novel mechanism employing MuB protein
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We describe a new immunity mechanism that protects actively replicating/transposing Mu from self-integration. We show that this mechanism is distinct from the established cis-immunity mechanism, which operates by removal of MuB protein from DNA adjacent to Mu ends. MuB normally promotes integration into DNA to which it is bound, hence its removal prevents use of this DNA as target. Contrary to what might be expected from a cis-immunity mechanism, strong binding of MuB was observed throughout the Mu genome. We also show that the cis-immunity mechanism is apparently functional outside Mu ends, but that the level of protection offered by this mechanism is insufficient to explain the protection seen inside Mu. Thus, both strong binding of MuB inside and poor immunity outside Mu testify to a mechanism of immunity distinct from cis-immunity, which we call 'Mu genome immunity'. MuB has the potential to coat the Mu genome and prevent auto-integration as previously observed in vitro on synthetic A/T-only DNA, where strong MuB binding occluded the entire bound region from Mu insertions. The existence of two rival immunity mechanisms within and outside the Mu genome, both employing MuB, suggests that the replicating Mu genome must be segregated into an independent chromosomal domain. We propose a model for how formation of a 'Mu domain' may be aided by specific Mu sequences and nucleoid-associated proteins, promoting polymerization of MuB on the genome to form a barrier against self-integration.
All authors are with the Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA