The DNA of bacteriophage phi W-14 is unusual in that half of the thymine residues are replaced with the hypermodified pyrimidine alpha-putrescinylthymine (Kropinski et al., Biochemistry 12:151-157, 1973). Bacteriophage phi W-14 DNA and Bacillus subtilis DNA exhibited comparable competing abilities for the uptake of transfecting bacteriophage SPP1 DNA by competent cells of B. subtilis. B. subtilis DNA decreased transfection and uptake to the same extent, indicating that it merely competed with SPP1 DNA for uptake. Phi W-14 DNA, however, decreased transfection up to 30 times more effectively than it inhibited uptake. Phi W-14 DNA did not alter the kinetics of transfection. The degree of inhibition of transfection was dependent upon the time of addition of Phi W-14 DNA relative to the time of addition of SPP1 DNA. If failed to inhibit when added 30 min after SPP1 DNA. It had a fourfold-greater effect when added 10 min before, rather than simultaneously with, SPP1, but this enhancement was abolished by high concentrations of SPP1 DNA. The nature of the transfection process was not altered in those cells escaping inhibition by Phi W-14 DNA: two molecules of transfecting SPP1 DNA were required to form a transfectant with or without Phi W-14 DNA. Free putrescine did not affect transfection by SPP1 DNA. It was concluded that the putrescine groups covalently attached to phi W-14 DNA allowed this DNA to interfere with the transfection process at the intracellular level.
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