Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Characterization of the molecular components and function of BARE-1, Hin-Mu and Mu transposition machineries

Anna-Helena Saariaho

Doctoral dissertation, June 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Division of Genetics and Institute of Biotechnology.

Transposable elements, transposons, are discrete DNA segments that are able to move or copy themselves from one locus to another within or between their host genome(s) without a requirement for DNA homology. They are abundant residents in virtually all the genomes studied, for instance, the genomic portion of TEs is approximately 3% in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, 45% in humans, and apparently more than 70% in some plant genomes such as maize and barley. Transposons plays essential role in genome evolution, in lateral transfer of antibiotic resistance genes among bacteria and in life cycle of certain viruses such as HIV-1 and bacteriophage Mu.

Despite the diversity of transposable elements they all use a fundamentally similar mechanism called transpositional DNA recombination (transposition) for the movement within and between the genomes of their host organisms. The DNA breakage and joining reactions that underlie their transposition are chemically similar in virtually all known transposition systems. The similarity of the reactions is also reflected in the structure and function of the catalyzing enzymes, transposases and integrases. The transposition reactions take place within the context of a transposition machinery, which can be particularly complex, as in the case of the VLP (virus like particle) machinery of retroelements, which in vivo contains RNA or cDNA and a number of element encoded structural and catalytic proteins. Yet, the minimal core machinery required for transposition comprises a multimer of transposase or integrase proteins and their binding sites at the element DNA ends only. Although the chemistry of DNA transposition is fairly well characterized, the components and function of the transposition machinery have been investigated in detail for only a small group of elements.

This work focuses on the identification, characterization, and functional studies of the molecular components of the transposition machineries of BARE-1, Hin-Mu and Mu. For BARE-1 and Hin-Mu transpositional activity has not been shown previously, whereas bacteriophage Mu is a general model of transposition. For BARE-1, which is a retroelement of barley (Hordeum vulgare), the protein and DNA components of the functional VLP machinery were identified from cell extracts. In the case of Hin-Mu, which is a Mu-like prophage in Haemophilus influenzae Rd genome, the components of the core machinery (transposase and its binding sites) were characterized and their functionality was studied by using an in vitro methodology developed for Mu. The function of Mu core machinery was studied for its ability to use various DNA substrates: Hin-Mu end specific DNA substrates and Mu end specific hairpin substrates. The hairpin processing reaction by MuA was characterized in detail.

New information was gained of all three machineries. The components or their activity required for functional BARE-1 VLP machinery and retrotransposon life cycle were present in vivo and VLP-like structures could be detected. The Hin-Mu core machinery components were identified and shown to be functional. The components of the Mu and Hin-Mu core machineries were partially interchangeable, reflecting both evolutionary conservation and flexibility within the core machineries. The Mu core machinery displayed surprising flexibility in substrate usage, as it was able to utilize Hin-Mu end specific DNA substrates and to process Mu end DNA hairpin substrates. This flexibility may be evolutionarily and mechanistically important.

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Last updated 19.05.2006

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