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Microbiol Rev. Sep 1994; 58(3): 401–465.
PMCID: PMC372975

Biochemistry of homologous recombination in Escherichia coli.

Abstract

Homologous recombination is a fundamental biological process. Biochemical understanding of this process is most advanced for Escherichia coli. At least 25 gene products are involved in promoting genetic exchange. At present, this includes the RecA, RecBCD (exonuclease V), RecE (exonuclease VIII), RecF, RecG, RecJ, RecN, RecOR, RecQ, RecT, RuvAB, RuvC, SbcCD, and SSB proteins, as well as DNA polymerase I, DNA gyrase, DNA topoisomerase I, DNA ligase, and DNA helicases. The activities displayed by these enzymes include homologous DNA pairing and strand exchange, helicase, branch migration, Holliday junction binding and cleavage, nuclease, ATPase, topoisomerase, DNA binding, ATP binding, polymerase, and ligase, and, collectively, they define biochemical events that are essential for efficient recombination. In addition to these needed proteins, a cis-acting recombination hot spot known as Chi (chi: 5'-GCTGGTGG-3') plays a crucial regulatory function. The biochemical steps that comprise homologous recombination can be formally divided into four parts: (i) processing of DNA molecules into suitable recombination substrates, (ii) homologous pairing of the DNA partners and the exchange of DNA strands, (iii) extension of the nascent DNA heteroduplex; and (iv) resolution of the resulting crossover structure. This review focuses on the biochemical mechanisms underlying these steps, with particular emphases on the activities of the proteins involved and on the integration of these activities into likely biochemical pathways for recombination.

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