A phage mechanism for selective nicking of dUMP-containing DNA

Tridib Mahata, Shahar Molshanski-Mor, Moran G. Goren, Biswanath Jana, Miriam Kohen-Manor, Ido Yosef, Oren Avram, Tal Pupko, Dor Salomon*, Udi Qimron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacteriophages (phages) have evolved efficient means to take over the machinery of the bacterial host. The molecular tools at their disposal may be applied to manipulate bacteria and to divert molecular pathways at will. Here, we describe a bacterial growth inhibitor, gene product T5.015, encoded by the T5 phage. High-throughput sequencing of genomic DNA of bacterial mutants, resistant to this inhibitor, revealed disruptive mutations in the Escherichia coli ung gene, suggesting that growth inhibition mediated by T5.015 depends on the uracil-excision activity of Ung. We validated that growth inhibition is abrogated in the absence of ung and confirmed physical binding of Ung by T5.015. In addition, biochemical assays with T5.015 and Ung indicated that T5.015 mediates endonucleolytic activity at abasic sites generated by the base-excision activity of Ung. Importantly, the growth inhibition resulting from the endonucleolytic activity is manifested by DNA replication and cell division arrest. We speculate that the phage uses this protein to selectively cause cleavage of the host DNA, which possesses more misincorporated uracils than that of the phage. This protein may also enhance phage utilization of the available resources in the infected cell, since halting replication saves nucleotides, and stopping cell division maintains both daughters of a dividing cell.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2026354118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - 8 Jun 2021


  • AP site
  • Endonuclease
  • T5 bacteriophage
  • Toxic protein
  • Ung


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