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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 25, 1996; 93(13): 6647–6652.

Copy-choice recombination mediated by DNA polymerase III holoenzyme from Escherichia coli.


Formation of deletions by recombination between short direct repeats is thought to involve either a break-join or a copy-choice process. The key step of the latter is slippage of the replication machinery between the repeats. We report that the main replicase of Escherichia coli, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, slips between two direct repeats of 27 bp that flank an inverted repeat of approximately equal 300bp. Slippage was detected in vitro, on a single-stranded DNA template, in a primer extension assay. It requires the presence of a short (8 bp) G+C-rich sequence at the base of a hairpin that can form by annealing of the inverted repeats. It is stimulated by (i) high salt concentration, which might stabilize the hairpin, and (ii) two proteins that ensure the processivity of the DNA polymerase III holoenzyme: the single-stranded DNA binding protein and the beta subunit of the polymerase. Slippage is rather efficient under optimal reaction conditions because it can take place on >50% of template molecules. This observation supports the copy-choice model for recombination between short direct repeats.

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