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Aug 31, 2015
PLoS Genetics
Spatial regulation is often encountered as a component of multi-tiered regulatory systems in eukaryotes, where processes are readily segregated by organelle boundaries. Well-characterized examples of spatial regulation are less common in bacteria. Low-fidelity DNA polymerase V (UmuD'2C) is produced in Escherichia coli as part of the bacterial SOS response to DNA damage. Due to the mutagenic potential of this enzyme, pol V activity is controlled by means of an elaborate regulatory system at transcriptional and posttranslational levels. Using single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to visualize UmuC inside living cells in space and time, we now show that pol V is also subject to a novel form of spatial regulation. After an initial delay (~ 45 min) post UV irradiation, UmuC is synthesized, but is not immediately activated. Instead, it is sequestered at the inner cell membrane. The release of UmuC into the cytosol requires the RecA* nucleoprotein filament-mediated cleavage of UmuD→UmuD'. Classic SOS damage response mutants either block [umuD(K97A)] or constitutively stimulate [recA(E38K)] UmuC release from the membrane. Foci of mutagenically active pol V Mut (UmuD'2C-RecA-ATP) formed in the cytosol after UV irradiation do not co-localize with pol III replisomes, suggesting a capacity to promote translesion DNA synthesis at lesions skipped over by DNA polymerase III. In effect, at least three molecular mechanisms limit the amount of time that pol V has to access DNA: (1) transcriptional and posttranslational regulation that initially keep the intracellular levels of pol V to a minimum; (2) spatial regulation via transient sequestration of UmuC at the membrane, which further delays pol V activation; and (3) the hydrolytic activity of a recently discovered pol V Mut ATPase function that limits active polymerase time on the chromosomal template.

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