Exploring the structure and function of bacterial cytosine specific DNA methyltransferases using site-directed mutagenesis
Point mutations were engineered into the sequence of the multispecific DNA methyltransferase (Mtase) M. SPRI in motif IX, in order to mimic the corresponding motif IX of mono-specific Mtase. A similar approach was adopted to modify the sequence of the monospecific enzyme M. HhaI in motifs IX and X based on the available structure and as a consequence the enzyme regained methylation potential. It was thought that these changes might be sufficient to enable functional exchange of the target recognition domains (TRDs) between a mono- and a multispecific enzyme. However, insertion of various segments of TRD region from M. SPRI into the M. HhaI was not successful (Chapter 4). To establish whether mono- and multispecific Mtases are incompatible in terms of sequence exchanges, a systematic "swapping" of motifs was carried out (Chapter 5). These experiments suggested that there are some enzyme-specific structural interactions between different subunits within each class of Mtases. In second half of this thesis a bacterial two-hybrid system based on the reversible assembly of an engineered form of M. SPRI was developed (Chapter 6). However the Mtase protein does not assemble into an active species until a DNA segment encoding a leucine zipper motif is fused to each of the two halves. Co-transformation of E. coli with the plasmids expressing the C-terminal and N-terminal domains respectively resulted in the abolition of colonies on double antibiotic plates, when an mcr strain was used as host. High performance liquid chromatography was used to estimate the extent of modification of plasmids indirectly. The extent of methylation at specific sequences within a plasmid molecule was readily detected by the corresponding differential susceptibility to digestion by specific restriction enzymes. Using this approach it proved possible to detect different levels of activity produced by wild type and mutant recombinant DNA Methyltransferases with sensitivity and in a semi quantitative manner. In order to analyse the biochemical properties of Mtase, I have developed an in vitro translation-modification assay. Binary studies with the mutants (from Chapter 3 and 5) showed that there were no detectable sequence-specific recognition differences between these enzymes. Taken together, these results suggest that motif IX plays a role in general stabilisation of the enzyme core structure and has a less significant role in DNA recognition.