Journal of bacteriology

Evidence that the supE44 mutation of Escherichia coli is an amber suppressor allele of glnX and that it also suppresses ochre and opal nonsense mutations.

PMID 20833812


Translational readthrough of nonsense codons is seen not only in organisms possessing one or more tRNA suppressors but also in strains lacking suppressors. Amber suppressor tRNAs have been reported to suppress only amber nonsense mutations, unlike ochre suppressors, which can suppress both amber and ochre mutations, essentially due to wobble base pairing. In an Escherichia coli strain carrying the lacZU118 episome (an ochre mutation in the lacZ gene) and harboring the supE44 allele, suppression of the ochre mutation was observed after 7 days of incubation. The presence of the supE44 lesion in the relevant strains was confirmed by sequencing, and it was found to be in the duplicate copy of the glnV tRNA gene, glnX. To investigate this further, an in vivo luciferase assay developed by D. W. Schultz and M. Yarus (J. Bacteriol. 172:595-602, 1990) was employed to evaluate the efficiency of suppression of amber (UAG), ochre (UAA), and opal (UGA) mutations by supE44. We have shown here that supE44 suppresses ochre as well as opal nonsense mutations, with comparable efficiencies. The readthrough of nonsense mutations in a wild-type E. coli strain was much lower than that in a supE44 strain when measured by the luciferase assay. Increased suppression of nonsense mutations, especially ochre and opal, by supE44 was found to be growth phase dependent, as this phenomenon was only observed in stationary phase and not in logarithmic phase. These results have implications for the decoding accuracy of the translational machinery, particularly in stationary growth phase.

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