, Volume 256, Issue 3, pp 277-281

Genetic analysis of mutagenesis in aging Escherichia coli colonies

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Bacteria live in unstructured and structured environments, experiencing feast and famine lifestyles. Bacterial colonies can be viewed as model structured environments. SOS induction and mutagenesis have been observed in aging Escherichia coli colonies, in the absence of exogenous sources of DNA damage. This cAMP-dependent mutagenesis occurring in Resting Organisms in a Structured Environment (ROSE) is unaffected by a umuC mutation and therefore differs from both targeted UV mutagenesis and recA730 (SOS constitutive) untargeted mutagenesis. As a recB mutation has only a minor effect on ROSE mutagenesis it also differs from both adaptive reversion of the lacI33 allele and from iSDR (inducible Stable DNA Replication) mutagenesis. Besides its recA and lexA dependence, ROSE mutagenesis is also uvrB and polA dependent. These genetic requirements are reminiscent of the untargeted mutagenesis in λ phage observed when unirradiated λ infects UV-irradiated E. coli. These mutations, which are not observed in aging liquid cultures, accumulate linearly with the age of the colonies. ROSE mutagenesis might offer a good model for bacterial mutagenesis in structured environments such as biofilms and for mutagenesis of quiescent eukaryotic cells.

Received: 30 April 1997 / Accepted: 1 July 1997