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Chapter Seven Fluorescence-Based Reporters for Detection of Mutagenesis in E. coli

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Mutagenesis in model organisms following exposure to chemicals is used as an indicator of genotoxicity. Mutagenesis assays are also used to study mechanisms of DNA homeostasis. This chapter focuses on detection of mutagenesis in prokaryotes, which boils down to two approaches: reporter inactivation (forward mutation assay) and reversion of an inactivating mutation (reversion mutation assay). Both methods are labor intensive, involving visual screening, quantification of colonies on solid media, or determining a Poisson distribution in liquid culture. Here, we present two reversion reporters for in vivo mutagenesis that produce a quantitative output, and thus have the potential to greatly reduce the amount of test chemical and labor involved in these assays. This output is obtained by coupling a TEM β lactamase-based reversion assay with GFP fluorescence, either by placing the two genes on the same plasmid or by fusing them translationally and interrupting the N-terminus of the chimeric ORF with a stop codon. We also describe a reporter aimed at facilitating the monitoring of continuous mutagenesis in mutator strains. This reporter couples two reversion markers, allowing the temporal separation of mutation events in time, thus providing information about the dynamics of mutagenesis in mutator strains. Here, we describe these reporter systems, provide protocols for use, and demonstrate their key functional features using error-prone Pol I mutagenesis as a source of mutations.

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