Control of bacterial DNA supercoiling


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Two DNA topoisomerases control the level of negative supercoiling in bacterial cells. DNA gyrase introduces supercoils, and DNA topoisomerase I prevents super-coiling from reaching unacceptably high levels. Perturbations of supercoiling are corrected by the substrate preferences of these topoisomerases with respect to DNA topology and by changes in expression of the genes encoding the enzymes. However, super-coiling changes when the growth environment is altered in ways that also affect cellular energetics. The ratio of [ATP] to [ADP], to which gyrase is sensitive, may be involved in the response of supercoiling to growth conditions. Inside cells, supercoiling is partitioned into two components, superhelical tension and restrained supercoils. Shifts in superhelical tension elicited by nicking or by salt shock do not rapidly change the level of restrained supercoiling. However, a steady-state change in supercoiling caused by mutation of topA does alter both tension and restrained supercoils. This communication between the two compartments may play a role in the control of supercoiling.