Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Xer site-specific recombination functions in the stable inheritance of circular plasmids and bacterial chromosomes. Two related recombinases, XerC and XerD, mediate this recombination, which ‘undoes’ the potential damage of homologous recombination. Xer recombination on natural plasmid sites is preferentially intramolecular, converting plasmid multimers to monomers. In contrast, recombination at the Escherichia coli recombination site, dif, occurs both intermolecularly and intramolecularly, at least when dif is inserted into a multicopy plasmid. Here the DNA sequence features of a family of core recombination sites in which the XerC- and XerD-binding sites, which are separated by 6 bp, were analysed in order to ascertain what determines whether recombination will be preferentially intramolecular, or will occur both within and between molecules. Sequence changes in either the XerC- or XerD-binding site can alter the recombination outcome. Preferential intramolecular recombination between a pair of recombination sites requires additional accessory DNA sequences and accessory recombination proteins and is correlated with reduced affinities of recombinase binding to recombination core sites, reduced XerC-mediated cleavage in vitro, and an apparent increased overall bending in recombinase–core-site complexes.
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