Allele-specific suppression as a tool to study protein-protein interactions in bacteria.
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Suppression analysis is well suited to study the interactions of gene products. It offers the advantage of simplicity for any organism for which a convenient genetic system has been developed, which holds for a wide spectrum of bacteria and an ever-increasing number of unicellular as well as complex eukaryotes. No other method provides as much information about the functional relationships of biological macromolecules. The intrinsic value of suppression analysis is enhanced by advances in genomics and in biophysical techniques for investigating the properties of nucleic acids and proteins, such as X-ray crystallography, liquid and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, electron spin labeling, and isothermal calorimetry. These approaches confirm and complement whatever is revealed by genetics. Despite these sterling qualities, suppression analysis has its dangers, less in execution than in conceptualization of experiments and interpretation of data. A consistent nomenclature is essential for a uniform and widespread understanding of the results. Familiarity with the genetic background and idiosyncracies of the organism studied is critical in avoiding extraneous phenomena that can affect the outcome. Finally, it is imperative not to underestimate potentially bizarre and improbable consequences that can transpire when rigorous genetic selection is maintained for an appreciable length of time. The article begins with a somewhat pedagogical discussion of genetic terminology. It then moves on to the necessary precautions to observe while planning and conducting suppression analysis. The remainder of the article considers different manifestations of suppression: bypass suppression; gradients of suppression; suppression by relaxed specificity; allele-specific "suppression at a distance"; and true conformational suppression. The treatment is not exhaustive, but representative examples have been gleaned from the recent bacterial literature.
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