• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of geneticsGeneticsCurrent IssueInformation for AuthorsEditorial BoardSubscribeSubmit a Manuscript
Genetics. Dec 1999; 153(4): 1525–1533.
PMCID: PMC1460850

DNA sequence similarity requirements for interspecific recombination in Bacillus.


Gene transfer in bacteria is notoriously promiscuous. Genetic material is known to be transferred between groups as distantly related as the Gram positives and Gram negatives. However, the frequency of homologous recombination decreases sharply with the level of relatedness between the donor and recipient. Several studies show that this sexual isolation is an exponential function of DNA sequence divergence between recombining substrates. The two major factors implicated in producing the recombinational barrier are the mismatch repair system and the requirement for a short region of sequence identity to initiate strand exchange. Here we demonstrate that sexual isolation in Bacillus transformation results almost exclusively from the need for regions of identity at both the 5' and 3' ends of the donor DNA strand. We show that, by providing the essential identity, we can effectively eliminate sexual isolation between highly divergent sequences. We also present evidence that the potential of a donor sequence to act as a recombinogenic, invasive end is determined by the stability (melting point) of the donor-recipient complex. These results explain the exponential relationship between sexual isolation and sequence divergence observed in bacteria. They also suggest a model for rapid spread of novel adaptations, such as antibiotic resistance genes, among related species.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (149K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Alonso JC, Lüder G, Trautner TA. Intramolecular homologous recombination in Bacillus subtilis 168. Mol Gen Genet. 1992 Dec;236(1):60–64. [PubMed]
  • Boor KJ, Duncan ML, Price CW. Genetic and transcriptional organization of the region encoding the beta subunit of Bacillus subtilis RNA polymerase. J Biol Chem. 1995 Sep 1;270(35):20329–20336. [PubMed]
  • Datta A, Hendrix M, Lipsitch M, Jinks-Robertson S. Dual roles for DNA sequence identity and the mismatch repair system in the regulation of mitotic crossing-over in yeast. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Sep 2;94(18):9757–9762. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Ge L, Rudolph P. Simultaneous introduction of multiple mutations using overlap extension PCR. Biotechniques. 1997 Jan;22(1):28–30. [PubMed]
  • Ginetti F, Perego M, Albertini AM, Galizzi A. Bacillus subtilis mutS mutL operon: identification, nucleotide sequence and mutagenesis. Microbiology. 1996 Aug;142(Pt 8):2021–2029. [PubMed]
  • Harris-Warrick RM, Lederberg J. Interspecies transformation in Bacillus: mechanism of heterologous intergenote transformation. J Bacteriol. 1978 Mar;133(3):1246–1253. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hsieh P, Camerini-Otero CS, Camerini-Otero RD. The synapsis event in the homologous pairing of DNAs: RecA recognizes and pairs less than one helical repeat of DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Jul 15;89(14):6492–6496. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Kooistra J, Haijema BJ, Venema G. The Bacillus subtilis addAB genes are fully functional in Escherichia coli. Mol Microbiol. 1993 Mar;7(6):915–923. [PubMed]
  • Majewski J, Cohan FM. The effect of mismatch repair and heteroduplex formation on sexual isolation in Bacillus. Genetics. 1998 Jan;148(1):13–18. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Malkov VA, Sastry L, Camerini-Otero RD. RecA protein assisted selection reveals a low fidelity of recognition of homology in a duplex DNA by an oligonucleotide. J Mol Biol. 1997 Aug 15;271(2):168–177. [PubMed]
  • Meima R, Haan GJ, Venema G, Bron S, de Jong S. Sequence specificity of illegitimate plasmid recombination in Bacillus subtilis: possible recognition sites for DNA topoisomerase I. Nucleic Acids Res. 1998 May 15;26(10):2366–2373. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Rao BJ, Chiu SK, Bazemore LR, Reddy G, Radding CM. How specific is the first recognition step of homologous recombination? Trends Biochem Sci. 1995 Mar;20(3):109–113. [PubMed]
  • Rayssiguier C, Thaler DS, Radman M. The barrier to recombination between Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium is disrupted in mismatch-repair mutants. Nature. 1989 Nov 23;342(6248):396–401. [PubMed]
  • Reddy G, Burnett B, Radding CM. Uptake and processing of duplex DNA by RecA nucleoprotein filaments: insights provided by a mixed population of dynamic and static intermediates. Biochemistry. 1995 Aug 15;34(32):10194–10204. [PubMed]
  • Vulić M, Dionisio F, Taddei F, Radman M. Molecular keys to speciation: DNA polymorphism and the control of genetic exchange in enterobacteria. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Sep 2;94(18):9763–9767. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Roberts MS, Cohan FM. The effect of DNA sequence divergence on sexual isolation in Bacillus. Genetics. 1993 Jun;134(2):401–408. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Zahrt TC, Maloy S. Barriers to recombination between closely related bacteria: MutS and RecBCD inhibit recombination between Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella typhi. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Sep 2;94(18):9786–9791. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Shen P, Huang HV. Homologous recombination in Escherichia coli: dependence on substrate length and homology. Genetics. 1986 Mar;112(3):441–457. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Zawadzki P, Cohan FM. The size and continuity of DNA segments integrated in Bacillus transformation. Genetics. 1995 Dec;141(4):1231–1243. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Shen P, Huang HV. Effect of base pair mismatches on recombination via the RecBCD pathway. Mol Gen Genet. 1989 Aug;218(2):358–360. [PubMed]
  • Zawadzki P, Roberts MS, Cohan FM. The log-linear relationship between sexual isolation and sequence divergence in Bacillus transformation is robust. Genetics. 1995 Jul;140(3):917–932. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Tracy RB, Baumohl JK, Kowalczykowski SC. The preference for GT-rich DNA by the yeast Rad51 protein defines a set of universal pairing sequences. Genes Dev. 1997 Dec 15;11(24):3423–3431. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Upender M, Raj L, Weir M. Megaprimer method for in vitro mutagenesis using parallel templates. Biotechniques. 1995 Jan;18(1):29–32. [PubMed]

Articles from Genetics are provided here courtesy of Genetics Society of America


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...