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Summary

The Escherichia coli dGTP triphosphohydrolase (dGTPase) encoded by the dgt gene catalyses the hydrolysis of dGTP to deoxyguanosine and triphosphate. The recent discovery of a mutator effect associated with deletion of dgt indicated participation of the triphosphohydrolase in preventing mutagenesis. Here, we have investigated the possible involvement of dgt in facilitating thymine utilization through its ability to provide intracellular deoxyguanosine, which is readily converted by the DeoD phosphorylase to deoxyribose-1-phosphate, the critical intermediate that enables uptake and utilization of thymine. Indeed, we observed that the minimal amount of thymine required for growth of thymine-requiring (thyA) strains decreased with increased expression level of the dgt gene. As expected, this dgt-mediated effect was dependent on the DeoD purine nucleoside phosphorylase. We also observed that thyA strains experience growth difficulties upon nutritional shift-up and that the dgt gene facilitates adaptation to the new growth conditions. Blockage of the alternative yjjG (dUMP phosphatase) pathway for deoxyribose-1-phosphate generation greatly exacerbated the severity of thymine starvation in enriched media, and under these conditions the dgt pathway becomes crucial in protecting the cells against thymineless death. Overall, our results suggest that the dgt-dependent pathway for deoxyribose-1-phosphate generation may operate under various cell conditions to provide deoxyribosyl donors.