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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Feb 19;99(4):2100-5.

Homologous recombination at the border: insertion-deletions and the trapping of foreign DNA in Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Microbiologie et Génétique Moléculaire, Unité Mixte de Recherche 5100, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Université Paul Sabatier, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex, France.


Integration of foreign DNA was observed in the Gram-positive human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) after transformation with DNA from a recombinant Escherichia coli bacteriophage lamda carrying a pneumococcal insert. Segments of lamda DNA replaced chromosomal sequences adjacent to the region homologous with the pneumococcal insert, whence the name insertion-deletion. Here we report that a pneumococcal insert was absolutely required for insertion-deletion formation, but could be as short as 153 bp; that the sizes of foreign DNA insertions (289-2,474 bp) and concomitant chromosomal deletions (45-1,485 bp) were not obviously correlated; that novel joints clustered preferentially within segments of high GC content; and that the crossovers in 29 independent novel joints were located 1 bp from the border or within short (3-10 nt long) stretches of identity (microhomology) between resident and foreign DNA. The data are consistent with a model in which the insert serving as a homologous recombination anchor favors interaction and subsequent illegitimate recombination events at microhomologies between foreign and resident sequences. The potential of homology- directed illegitimate recombination for genome evolution was illustrated by the trapping of functional heterologous genes.

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