Homing events in the gyrA gene of some mycobacteria.
The A subunit of DNA gyrase in Mycobacterium leprae, unlike its counterpart in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is produced by protein splicing as its gene, gyrA, harbors a 1260-bp in-frame insertion encoding an intein, a putative homing endonuclease. Analysis of the gyrA locus from different mycobacterial species revealed the presence of inteins in Mycobacterium flavescens, Mycobacterium gordonae and Mycobacterium kansasii but not in 10 other pathogenic or saprophytic mycobacteria. In all four cases where intein coding sequences were found, they were localized in the same position in gyrA, immediately downstream of the codon for the key active-site residue Tyr-130. The intein products were similar, but not identical, in sequence and the splice junctions displayed all the features found in other polypeptides known to be produced by protein splicing from a precursor protein. Paired motifs, found in homing endonucleases encoded by some group I RNA introns, and inteins showing endonuclease activity, were present in the gyrA inteins as were other intein-specific signatures. Some strains of M. flavescens, M. gordonae, and M. kansasii were shown by PCR analysis to have inteinless gyrA genes, in contrast to the situation in M. leprae where all the isolates possessed insertions in gyrA. Sequencing of the corresponding regions revealed that, although the GyrA protein sequence was conserved, the nucleotide sequences differed in gyrA genes with and without inteins, suggesting that the homing endonuclease displays sequence specificity.