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Title: Polar Effects of Transposon Insertion into a Minimal Bacterial Genome
ABSTRACT Global transposon mutagenesis is a valuable tool for identifying genes required for cell viability. Here we present a global analysis of the orientation of viable Tn 5 -Puro r (Tn 5 -puromycin resistance) insertions into the near-minimal bacterial genome of JCVI-syn2.0. Sixteen of the 478 protein-coding genes show a noticeable asymmetry in the orientation of disrupting insertions of Tn 5 -Puro r . Ten of these are located in operons, upstream of essential or quasi-essential genes. Inserts transcribed in the same direction as the downstream gene are favored, permitting read-through transcription of the essential or quasi-essential gene. Some of these genes were classified as quasi-essential solely because of polar effects on the expression of downstream genes. Three genes showing asymmetry in Tn 5 -Puro r insertion orientation prefer the orientation that avoids collisions between read-through transcription of Tn 5 -Puro r and transcription of an adjacent gene. One gene (JCVISYN2_0132 [abbreviated here as “_0132”]) shows a strong preference for Tn 5 -Puro r insertions transcribed upstream, away from the downstream nonessential gene _0133. This suggested that expression of _0133 due to read-through from Tn 5 -Puro r is lethal when _0132 function is disrupted by transposon insertion. This led to the identification of genes _0133 and _0132 as a toxin-antitoxin pair. The three remaining genes show read-through transcription of Tn 5 -Puro r directed downstream and away from sizable upstream intergenic regions (199 bp to 363 bp), for unknown reasons. In summary, polar effects of transposon insertion can, in a few cases, affect the classification of genes as essential, quasi-essential, or nonessential and sometimes can give clues to gene function. IMPORTANCE In studies of the minimal genetic requirements for life, we used global transposon mutagenesis to identify genes needed for a minimal bacterial genome. Transposon insertion can disrupt the function of a gene but can also have polar effects on the expression of adjacent genes. In the Tn 5 -Puro r construct used in our studies, read-through transcription from Tn 5 -Puro r can drive expression of downstream genes. This results in a preference for Tn 5 -Puro r insertions transcribed toward a downstream essential or quasi-essential gene within the same operon. Such polar effects can have an impact on the classification of genes as essential, quasi-essential, or nonessential, but this has been observed in only a few cases. Also, polar effects of Tn 5 -Puro r insertion can sometimes give clues to gene function.  more » « less
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Journal of Bacteriology
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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