, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 11-24

Methylated cytosine at Dcm (CC T A GG) sites in Escherichia coli: Possible function and evolutionary implications

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The frequency and distribution of methylated cytosine (5-MeC) at CC T A GG (Dcm sites) in 49 E. coli DNA loci (207,530 bp) were determined. Principal observations of this analysis were: (1) Dcm frequency was higher than expected from random occurrence but lower than calculated with Markov chain analysis; (2) CCTGG sites were found more frequently in coding than in noncoding regions, while the opposite was true for CCAGG sites; (3) Dcm site distribution does not exhibit any identifiably regular pattern on the chromosome; (4) Dcm sites at oriC are probably not important for accurate initiation of DNA replication; (5) 5-MeC in codons was more frequently found in first than in second and third positions; (6) there are probably few genes in which the mutation rate is determined mainly by DNA methylation. It is proposed that the function of Dcm methylase is to protect chromosomal DNA from restriction-enzyme EcoRII. The Dcm methylation contribution to determine frequency of oligonucleotides, mutation rate, and recombination level, and thus evolution of the E. coli genome, could be interpreted as a consequence of the acquisition of this methylation.

Correspondence to: M.C. Gómez-Eichelmann