Avoiding self: Two Tn7-encoded proteins mediate target immunity in Tn7 transposition

Anne E. Stellwagen, Nancy L. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The bacterial transposon Tn7 exhibits target immunity, a process that prevents Tn7 from transposing into target DNAs that already contain a copy of the transposon. This work investigates the mechanism of target immunity in vitro. We demonstrate that two Tn7-encoded proteins - TnsB, which binds specifically to the ends of Tn7, and TnsC, the ATP-dependent DNA binding protein - act as a molecular switch to impose immunity on target DNAs containing Tn7 (or just Tn7 ends). TnsC binds to target DNA molecules and communicates with the Tn7 transposition machinery; here we show that target DNAs containing Tn7 ends are also bound and subsequently inactivated by TnsB. Protein-protein interactions between TnsB and TnsC appear to be responsible for this inactivation; the target DNA promotes these interactions by tethering TnsB and TnsC in high local concentration. An attractive model that emerges from this work is that TnsB triggers the dissociation of TnsC from the Tn7 end-containing target DNA; that dissociation depends on TnsC's ability to hydrolyze ATP. We propose that these interactions between TnsB and TnsC not only prevent Tn7 from inserting into itself, but also facilitate the selection of preferred target sites that is the hallmark of Tn7 transposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6823-6834
Number of pages12
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number22
StatePublished - 1997


  • ATP binding protein
  • DNA binding
  • Molecular switch
  • Protein-DNA interaction
  • Transposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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