Mutagenesis in the laci gene target of E. coli: improved analysis for lacI (d) and lacO mutants
Swerdlow, S.J.; Schaaper, R.M.
Mutation Research 770: 79-84
The lacI gene of Escherichia coli has been a highly useful target for studies of mutagenesis, particularly for analysis of the specificity (spectrum) of mutations generated under a variety of conditions and in various genetic backgrounds. The gene encodes the repressor of the lac operon, and lacI-defective mutants displaying constitutive expression of the operon are readily selected. DNA sequencing of the lacI mutants has often been confined to the N-terminal region of the protein, as it presents a conveniently short target with a high density of detectably mutable sites. Mutants in this region are easily selected due to their dominance in a genetic complementation test (lacI(d) mutants). A potential complication in these studies is that constitutive expression of lac may also arise due to mutations in the lac operator (lacO mutants). Under some conditions, for example when analyzing spontaneous mutations, lacO mutants can comprise a very high fraction of the constitutive mutants due to a strong base-substitution hotspot in the lac operator. Such mutational hot spots diminish the return of the sequencing effort and do not yield significant new information. For this reason, a procedure to eliminate the lacO mutants prior to DNA sequencing is desirable. Here, we report a simple method that allows screening out of lacO mutants. This method is based on the lack of resistance of lacO mutants to kanamycin under conditions when the kan gene is expressed from a plasmid under control of the lac promoter-operator (lacPO). We show data validating the new approach with sets of known lacI(d) and lacO mutants, and further apply it to the generation of a new collection of spontaneous mutations, where lacO mutants have historically been a significant contributor.