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PDF Version      Molecular Programming and Genetic Toxicology - CNRS URA 1444 affiliée à l’INSERM

  Director : CLEMENT Jean-Marie (jclement@pasteur.fr)



Our activity is devoted to four axes. Two of them derive from the study of a complex genetic region encoding the maltose transporter (the malB region) in the model bacterium Escherichia coli K12: the study of bacterial chromosome organization (repeated sequences) and the study of the maltose transporter and of ABC (ATP Binding Cassette) systems. The third axis concerns bacterial super-integrons which associate mobile genes on the chromosome. The fourth axis deals with the effects on bacteria, and more recently on transgenic mice, of genotoxic agents responsible for damages to the genetic material.



First theme: BIMEs, Repeated DNA and Insertion sequences. (Jean-Marie Clément, Caroline Wilde).

An increasing number of completely sequenced bacterial genomes are avalaible in databanks. Functionnal genomics aim to characterize gene functions and regulation, but bacterial chromosome structure is still poorly investigated and understood.

Repeated sequences, usually described in eukaryotes, are also abundant in prokaryotes. BIMEs (Bacterial Interspersed Mosaic Elements) constitute a family of extragenic repeated sequenced we discovered in E.coli and closely related Enterobacteria. We created a specialized databank devoted to intergenic DNA repeats in enterobacteria ( http://www.pasteur.fr/recherche/unites/pmtg/repet/index.html ). The function of BIMEs remains hypothetical. We suggested that at least some of them could bind proteins and participate to the chromosome structure.

An analysis of intergenic regions from E. coli natural isolates brought two important results:

1) Each isolate harbors a characteristic pattern of repeated sequences in interenic regions. This finding found an application for the typing of bacterial strains, including Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax.

2) In some isolates, a new insertion sequence (IS1397) is inserted specifically into palidromic Units (PUs), one of the basic constituents of BIMEs. In Klebsiella pneumoniae, a second PU-specific IS was discovered (ISKpn1). Such a target sequence specificity is unprecedented. We selected IS1397 transposition events in Enterobacteria (E. coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Yersinia pestis). IS1397 inserts almost exclusively into E. coli PU types, whereas ISKpn1 is specific for K. pneumoniae PUs which are slighly different. A study carried out in Yersinia pestis, a species closely related to E. coli but free of PUs, indicated that DNA circles encompassing the transposable module are probably intermediates of IS1397 transposition and that IS1397 binds directly its PU target (J-M. Clément, C. Wilde). We demonstrated that target specificity is entirely due to the IS1397and ISKpn1 transposases and is independent from their terminal inverted repeats. The two ISs have thus evolved to be species-specific, being able to transpose safely into intergenic regions. Their dissemination among other enterobacterial species requires a new adaptation which involves mutations enabling recognition of a different type of PU.

Second theme: The ABC maltose transporter and phylogenetic analysis of ABC systems (Elie Dassa, Philippe Bouige, A. Charlery, D. Murat, A. Pak, J. Mahaux, O. Garcia)

The ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) systems constitute the largest family of paralogues ever found. They are involved in a variety of biological processes, including not only transport across membranes, but also regulation of translation and transcription or DNA repair. In humans, 15 severe inherited diseases (including cystic fibrosis) are caused by the dysfunction of ABC transporters. Our past work contributed significantly to establish the ABC maltose and maltodextrin importer in Escherichia coli as a model for ABC transporters. The analysis of their properties is essential for the understanding of human ABC systems involved in pathologic manifestations.

We are pursuing three objectives :

1) Interactions between E. coli maltose transporter components

A combination of genetic and biochemical techniques (site-directed mutagenesis and chemical cross-linking) allowed us to define interactions between critical residues from a particular (helical) domain in MalK (the ATPase which energizes the system) and residues from a restricted region (EAA motif) in MalF and MalG (the transmembrane proteins). Significative structural rearrangements occur during transport (Elie Dassa, J. Mahaux).

2) Evolution of ABC systems

We developped a comprehensive database (ABCISSE) on these systems gathering sequences, structures and functions ( http://www.pasteur.fr/recherche/unites/pmtg/abc/database.html ). More than 2650 different ABC ATPases and over 7000 ABC-related genes (taking their partners into account) are registered. An automated annotation tool allows to predict the functions (rarely investigated experimentally, and unknown in half of the cases), the substrate specificities and the ATPases partners. Our phylogenetic analysis clusters ABC systems in three classes which match perfectly with the three functional classes : importers (exclusively prokaryotic), exporters and ABC systems apparently devoid of transmembrane domains probably involved in regulatory processes. The analysis of ABC systems in fully sequenced eukaryotic genomes suggests that eukaryotes use a relatively limited set of essential ABC systems, irrespectively of very large differences in genome sizes. We identified 6 typical prokaryote systems in the nuclear genome of Arabidopsis : most of eukaryotic ABC systems were probably acquired from the symbiotic bacterial ancestors of mitochondria and chloroplasts (E. Dassa, P. Bouige, A. Charlery, O. Garcia).

3) Orphan ABC proteins

Number of ABC proteins have no identified membrane associated partners. Several functions have been characterized and deal with transcription or translation regulation and DNA repair. In Staphylococcus aureus, Vga is involved in streptogramin resistance. A collaboration with Névine El Solh, Jean-Luc Guesdon and Muriel Delepierre teams was undertaken to understand the resistance mechanism (Programme tranversal de Recherches N°55 co-ordinated by Olivier Chesneau). Four Escherichia coli genes with unknown functions belong to the same family and are investigated (E. Dassa, D. Murat, J. Mahaux).

Third theme: Super-integrons(Didier Mazel, Anne-Marie Guérout, Dean Rowe-Magnus, Latefa Biskri, Chiho Mashimo, Gaëlle Demarre)

Horizontal gene tranfers play a fundamental role in bacterial evolution. The development of multi-drug resistance over the last decades is probably one of the most striking and worrysome example of the impact of gene transfer.

The contribution of integrons, a peculiar class of genetic elements in the evolution of resistance in Gram-negative bacteria has been substantiated. Integrons constitute a natural genetic engineering device. Due to the activity of a gene cassette-associated site-specific recombinase, they capture, express and disseminate exogenous DNA.

We have discovered another type of integrons with a broader role, the super-integrons, which assemble hundreds of gene cassettes on the chromosome of several g-proteobacteria (Vibrio, Shewanella, Xanthomonas, Pseudomonas...). The super-integron caracteristics show that they played the role of an evolutionary device in these bacterial genera for millions of years. They presently maintain a considerable reservoir of adaptive functions (metabolism, detoxification, resistance, virulence...). They seem to be able to capture genes from remote and diverse origins, since some of them have only identified homologs in eukaryotes, archaebacteria or viruses. Our recent studies point out the super-integrons as the source of multi-resistant integrons. Our current projects deal with the inventory of these elements and of the functions that they could encode, the expression profile of the cassettes, the recombination parameters and the cassette assembly process. (http://www.pasteur.fr/recherche/unites/pmtg/integ/index.html).

Fourth theme: Genetic Toxicology (Philippe quillardet, Eliette Touati, Xavier Arrault, Valérie Michel, Marie-Ange Rouffaud, F. Vigant)

We are involved in a preventive approach consisting in screening environmental compounds (genotoxics) able to generate mutations at the origin of human cancers. We developped SOS-chromotest, a short-term bacterial colorimetric test for the screening of genotoxic agents. It has been validated by the use of a large number of compounds ( http://www.pasteur.fr/recherche/unites/pmtg/toxic/index.html ).

1) Nitrofuran mutagenesis in Escherichia coli

Nitrofurantoin and nifuroxazide, two mutagenic compounds in bacteria, are widely used against urinary tract infections and acute diarrhoea from bacterial origin. R7000, another member of the nitrofuran family, is one of the most potent mutagens in bacteria. We analysed R7000-induced DNA adducts (mostly on guanines) and resulting mutations (mainly G:C-›T:A base pair substitutions and G:C base pair deletions). A SoxRS-dependant metabolic activation by nitroreductases is necessary and generates an oxidative stress which could enhance nitrofuran genotoxicity (P. Quillardet, E. Touati, X. Arrault, V. Michel, M-A. Rouffaud).

2) Nitrofuran mutagenesis in mice

Genotoxic effects of R7000 have also been studied in an animal model ("Big-Blue"transgenic mice carrying a bacterial reporter gene) in order to evaluate the possible consequences of nitrofurans exposition in humans. Intraperitoneal injection of R7000 induces mutations in small intestine, caecum and colon, the actual targets of the therapeutic action of most nitrofurans. The mutation spectrum, and thus the probable mode of action of R7000 are very similar in mice and E.coli. Oral administration of nitrofurantoin induced a mutagenic effect in kidney and R7000 in stomach. On the contrary, no mutagenic effect was observed with by nifuroxazide (P. Quillardet, E. Touati, X. Arrault, V. Michel, M-A. Rouffaud).

3) Genotoxics and DNA arrays

E.coli DNA arrays allows to identify genes induced or repressed by a broad spectrum of genotoxic agents (particularly in pollutants from the natural environment) and to define a "signature" for each of them. Their action on metabolism, on activation and on stress response will be depicted and unidentified functions of some ORFs will be uncovered. On the other hand, the construction of bacterial strains carrying fusions between diagnostic genes and a reporter gene is expected to lead to a test allowing the rapid screening environmental genotoxic agents (P. Quillardet, M-A. Rouffaud, F. Vigant)

4) Bacteria and cancer

A collaboration with the groups of Agnès Labigne and Michel Huerre was initiated (Programme Transversal de Recherche N°9 co-ordinated by Eliette Touati) aims to analyze why some bacterial infections are susceptible to lead in the long term to cancer. Helicobacter pylori is the aetiological factor of human peptic ulcer and seems to play a major role in the development of gastric cancers. "Big Blue" transgenic mice develop inflamatory reaction in gastric mucosa 6 weeks after chronic infection with H. pylori and H. felis. Mutagenesis in the stomach is increased and the pattern of H. pylori-induced mutations suggests the formation of oxidative damage on DNA. This transgenic mouse model is a potent tool to study different parameters such as the role of inflammatory response effectors in infection-induced genotoxicity (E. Touati, V. Michel).

Keywords: Chromosome structure, ABC Systems, Superintegrons, Genome plasticity, Genetic Toxicology, Carcinogenesis

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  Office staff Researchers Scientific trainees Other personnel
  COVA RODRIGUES Ana (acova@pasteur.fr) CLÉMENT Jean-Marie, CNRS



MAZEL Didier, IP


BISKRI Latéfa, PhD student

BOUVIER Marie, Post-graduate student

DEMARRE Gaëlle, PhD student

GARCIA Olivier, Post-graduate student

MASHIMO Chiho, Post-doc

MURAT Dorothée, PhD student

PAK Alireza, Post-graduate student

WILDE Caroline, PhD student


BOUIGE Philippe, IP

IRBY Marie-Louise, IP

LEBON M.-J. Gislaine, IP

MAHAUX Jocelyn, IP

MAUVE Evelyne, IP


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