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Genetics. Dec 1999; 153(4): 1513–1523.
PMCID: PMC1460845

Intron homing with limited exon homology. Illegitimate double-strand-break repair in intron acquisition by phage t4.


The td intron of bacteriophage T4 encodes a DNA endonuclease that initiates intron homing to cognate intronless alleles by a double-strand-break (DSB) repair process. A genetic assay was developed to analyze the relationship between exon homology and homing efficiency. Because models predict exonucleolytic processing of the cleaved recipient leading to homologous strand invasion of the donor allele, the assay was performed in wild-type and exonuclease-deficient (rnh or dexA) phage. Efficient homing was supported by exon lengths of 50 bp or greater, whereas more limited exon lengths led to a precipitous decline in homing levels. However, extensive homology in one exon still supported elevated homing levels when the other exon was completely absent. Analysis of these "one-sided" events revealed recombination junctions at ectopic sites of microhomology and implicated nucleolytic degradation in illegitimate DSB repair in T4. Interestingly, homing efficiency with extremely limiting exon homology was greatly elevated in phage deficient in the 3'-5' exonuclease, DexA, suggesting that the length of 3' tails is a major determinant of the efficiency of DSB repair. Together, these results suggest that illegitimate DSB repair may provide a means by which introns can invade ectopic sites.

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Selected References

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