1887

Abstract

Small single-stranded nucleic acid phages effect lysis by expressing a single protein, the amurin, lacking muralytic enzymatic activity. Three amurins have been shown to act like ‘protein antibiotics’ by inhibiting cell-wall biosynthesis. However, the L lysis protein of the canonical ssRNA phage MS2, a 75 aa polypeptide, causes lysis by an unknown mechanism without affecting net peptidoglycan synthesis. To identify residues important for lytic function, randomly mutagenized alleles of were generated, cloned into an inducible plasmid and the transformants were selected on agar containing the inducer. From a total of 396 clones, 67 were unique single base-pair changes that rendered L non-functional, of which 44 were missense mutants and 23 were nonsense mutants. Most of the non-functional missense alleles that accumulated in levels comparable to the wild-type allele are localized in the C-terminal half of L, clustered in and around an LS dipeptide sequence. The LS motif was used to align genes from ssRNA phages lacking any sequence similarity to MS2 or to each other. This alignment revealed a conserved domain structure, in terms of charge, hydrophobic character and predicted helical content. None of the missense mutants affected membrane-association of L. Several of the mutations in the central domains were highly conservative and recessive, suggesting a defect in a heterotypic protein–protein interaction, rather than in direct disruption of the bilayer structure, as had been previously proposed for L.

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2017-07-01
2020-01-29
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