Journal of bacteriology

Enhancement of pneumococcal transfection by protamine sulfate.

PMID 7130129


Protamine sulfate enhanced transfection of Streptococcus pneumoniae by DNA of omega 3 phage by factors as large as 10(5)-fold, provided it was present at the time the cells were added to the DNA. For DNA concentrations well below 1 microgram/ml, the optimum amount of protamine sulfate was near 1 microgram/ml of cells. Higher DNA concentrations required more protamine for maximum effect, and in all cases transfection fell when protamine was in excess. Transformation was not enhanced by low protamine levels and was inhibited by higher levels. A recipient strain with low but finite endonuclease activity and normal transformability showed higher transfection than did the wild type at low DNA concentrations but less than did the wild type at high DNA concentrations. Protamine sulfate enhanced its transfection at low, but not high, DNA concentrations. The behavior of this strain and the enhancement of transfection by protamine sulfate of wild-type cells were each consistent with less cutting of the donor DNA at the cell surface, which is part of the normal entry process in naturally competent gram-positive bacteria. Less cutting would lead to entry of fewer but longer strands that would be more efficient in reconstruction of the 33-megadalton phage replicon. We suggest that in this system protamine enhances transfection by inhibition of the surface nuclease action that is part of the normal entry process.

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