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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. Dec 1997; 61(4): 442–455.
PMCID: PMC232620

Rolling-circle replication of bacterial plasmids.


Many bacterial plasmids replicate by a rolling-circle (RC) mechanism. Their replication properties have many similarities to as well as significant differences from those of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) coliphages, which also replicate by an RC mechanism. Studies on a large number of RC plasmids have revealed that they fall into several families based on homology in their initiator proteins and leading-strand origins. The leading-strand origins contain distinct sequences that are required for binding and nicking by the Rep proteins. Leading-strand origins also contain domains that are required for the initiation and termination of replication. RC plasmids generate ssDNA intermediates during replication, since their lagging-strand synthesis does not usually initiate until the leading strand has been almost fully synthesized. The leading- and lagging-strand origins are distinct, and the displaced leading-strand DNA is converted to the double-stranded form by using solely the host proteins. The Rep proteins encoded by RC plasmids contain specific domains that are involved in their origin binding and nicking activities. The replication and copy number of RC plasmids, in general, are regulated at the level of synthesis of their Rep proteins, which are usually rate limiting for replication. Some RC Rep proteins are known to be inactivated after supporting one round of replication. A number of in vitro replication systems have been developed for RC plasmids and have provided insight into the mechanism of plasmid RC replication.

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Selected References

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