Transposable Phage Mu




Harshey, Rasika M.

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American Society for Microbiology


Transposable phage Mu has played a major role in elucidating the mechanism of movement of mobile DNA elements. The high efficiency of Mu transposition has facilitated a detailed biochemical dissection of the reaction mechanism, as well as of protein and DNA elements that regulate transpososome assembly and function. The deduced phosphotransfer mechanism involves in-line orientation of metal ion-activated hydroxyl groups for nucleophilic attack on reactive diester bonds, a mechanism that appears to be used by all transposable elements examined to date. A crystal structure of the Mu transpososome is available. Mu differs from all other transposable elements in encoding unique adaptations that promote its viral lifestyle. These adaptations include multiple DNA (enhancer, SGS) and protein (MuB, HU, IHF) elements that enable efficient Mu end synapsis, efficient target capture, low target specificity, immunity to transposition near or into itself, and efficient mechanisms for recruiting host repair and replication machineries to resolve transposition intermediates. MuB has multiple functions, including target capture and immunity. The SGS element promotes gyrase-mediated Mu end synapsis, and the enhancer, aided by HU and IHF, participates in directing a unique topological architecture of the Mu synapse. The function of these DNA and protein elements is important during both lysogenic and lytic phases. Enhancer properties have been exploited in the design of mini-Mu vectors for genetic engineering. Mu ends assembled into active transpososomes have been delivered directly into bacterial, yeast, and human genomes, where they integrate efficiently, and may prove useful for gene therapy.


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Harshey RM. 2014. Transposable phage Mu. Microbiol Spectrum 2(5):MDNA3-0007-2014. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.MDNA3-0007-2014.