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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e66712. Print 2013.

Dynamics and Regulation of RecA Polymerization and De-Polymerization on Double-Stranded DNA.

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  • 1Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore ; Department of Physics, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.


The RecA filament formed on double-stranded (ds) DNA is proposed to be a functional state analogous to that generated during the process of DNA strand exchange. RecA polymerization and de-polymerization on dsDNA is governed by multiple physiological factors. However, a comprehensive understanding of how these factors regulate the processes of polymerization and de-polymerization of RecA filament on dsDNA is still evolving. Here, we investigate the effects of temperature, pH, tensile force, and DNA ends (in particular ssDNA overhang) on the polymerization and de-polymerization dynamics of the E. coli RecA filament at a single-molecule level. Our results identified the optimal conditions that permitted spontaneous RecA nucleation and polymerization, as well as conditions that could maintain the stability of a preformed RecA filament. Further examination at a nano-meter spatial resolution, by stretching short DNA constructs, revealed a striking dynamic RecA polymerization and de-polymerization induced saw-tooth pattern in DNA extension fluctuation. In addition, we show that RecA does not polymerize on S-DNA, a recently identified novel base-paired elongated DNA structure that was previously proposed to be a possible binding substrate for RecA. Overall, our studies have helped to resolve several previous single-molecule studies that reported contradictory and inconsistent results on RecA nucleation, polymerization and stability. Furthermore, our findings also provide insights into the regulatory mechanisms of RecA filament formation and stability in vivo.

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