Mechanisms and DNA Specificity in Site-specific Recombination of Integron Cassettes

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Sammanfattning: Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has become a serious problem. This is due to the remarkable ability of bacteria to respond and rapidly adapt to environmental changes. Integrons are elements with the capacity for gene capture by an integron-encoded site-specific recombinase called IntI. IntI binds and acts at the recombination sites, attI and attC resulting in excision and integration of short DNA elements called gene cassettes carrying an attC site in the 3’ end. Several families of antibiotic resistance genes are borne on gene cassettes in integrons connected to mobile elements. Other cassettes reside in the larger and ancestral superintegrons located on chromosomes in both pathogenic and environmental bacteria. Due to their close connection with lateral gene transfer systems, it is possible that integrons are functionally dependent on those networks. This work presents arguments for such connections. The attC of the aadA1-qacE cassette junction in Tn21 was characterized in detail. Like other attC sites, it contains two pairs of inverted repeats and is almost palindromic. By using electrophoretic mobility shift assays, this study showed that IntI1 binds only to the bottom strand of attC. Upon folding the strand into a hairpin, a few chiral hairpin distortions define both the strand choice and also the appropriate orientation of the highly symmetrical site. Structural recognition also explains the wide sequence variation among attC sites. We have documented the initial cleavage step in recombination in IntI extracts and integrase levels in extracts were evaluated by a new method. Mutagenesis and homology modelling were performed to find amino acid residues in IntI1 that are important for recognition of attC hairpin-DNA. Comparisons were made with other tyrosine family members to explain how integron integrases differ in site-recognition and also in their mechanism of strand exchange.