, Volume 262, Issue 4-5, pp 659-667

Complementation and characterization of the nested Rz and Rz1 reading frames in the genome of bacteriophage λ

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Abstract

Transposon insertions in the Rz gene of bacteriophage λ block lysis if the medium contains divalent cations at concentrations greater than 5 mM, but otherwise cause no change in phenotype. The Rz protein is thought to have an endopeptidase activity, previously reported in λ lysates, which might be involved in cleavage of oligopeptide crosslinks between glycosidic strands in the peptidoglycan and the Lpp lipoproteins of the outer bacterial membrane. Recently, a small lipoprotein has been reported as the product of a short reading frame, designated Rz1, in the +1 register within Rz. This protein has been detected in membranes of induced λ lysogens. To determine whether Rz1 has a function in the λ vegetative cycle, amber nonsense alleles of Rz and Rz1 have been constructed by site-directed mutagenesis and used for complementation and suppression analysis. Both Rzam and Rz1am alleles have phenotypes identical to those of the original Rz insertion alleles, and complement and are fully suppressed in a supE host, indicating that the two genes are independent, trans-acting genes encoding proteins required for lysis in the presence of cations. Moreover, supF suppresses Rzam but not the Rz1am mutation, and the defective Rz1am product in the supF host shows a partially dominant character and significantly retards lysis even in the absence of additional cations in the medium. Rz and Rz1 represent a unique example of two genes located in different reading frames in the same nucleotide sequence, which encode different proteins that are both required in the same physiological pathway.

Received: 21 May 1999 / Accepted: 24 August 1999