Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Diverse responses to UV light exposure in Acinetobacter include the capacity for DNA damage-induced mutagenesis in the opportunistic pathogens Acinetobacter baumannii and Acinetobacter ursingii

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Error-prone and error-free DNA damage repair responses that are induced in most bacteria after exposure to various chemicals, antibiotics or radiation sources were surveyed across the genus Acinetobacter. The error-prone SOS mutagenesis response occurs when DNA damage induces a cell’s umuDC- or dinP-encoded error-prone polymerases. The model strain Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 possesses an unusual, regulatory umuD allele (umuDAb) with an extended 5′ region and only incomplete fragments of umuC. Diverse Acinetobacter species were investigated for the presence of umuDC and their ability to conduct UV-induced mutagenesis. Unlike ADP1, most Acinetobacter strains possessed multiple umuDC loci containing either umuDAb or a umuD allele resembling that of Escherichia coli. The nearly omnipresent umuDAb allele was the ancestral umuD in Acinetobacter, with horizontal gene transfer accounting for over half of the umuDC operons. Despite multiple umuD(Ab)C operons in many strains, only three species conducted UV-induced mutagenesis: Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter ursingii and Acinetobacter beijerinckii. The type of umuDC locus or mutagenesis phenotype a strain possessed was not correlated with its error-free response of survival after UV exposure, but similar diversity was apparent. The survival of 30 Acinetobacter strains after UV treatment ranged over five orders of magnitude, with the Acinetobacter calcoaceticus–A. baumannii (Acb) complex and haemolytic strains having lower survival than non-Acb or non-haemolytic strains. These observations demonstrate that a genus can possess a range of DNA damage response mechanisms, and suggest that DNA damage-induced mutation could be an important part of the evolution of the emerging pathogens A. baumannii and A. ursingii.