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Cell. 1988 Oct 21;55(2):235-46.

Functional expression of a sequence-specific endonuclease encoded by the retrotransposon R2Bm.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, New York 14627.


A fraction of the 28S ribosomal genes in certain insect species is interrupted by the insertion elements R1 and R2. These two elements from the silkworm Bombyx mori (R1Bm and R2Bm) are retrotransposons capable of transposing in a highly sequence-specific manner. We report here the functional expression in E. coli of the entire single open reading frame of R2Bm and show that it encodes a double-stranded endo-nuclease (integrase) that can specifically cleave the 28S gene at the R2 insertion site. The resulting cleavage is a 4 bp staggered 5' overhang. Deletion analysis of the 28S gene revealed that the DNA sequence required for specific cleavage is asymmetric with respect to the actual insertion (cleavage) site, with fewer than 10 bp required at one side and at least 24 bp at the other side of the site. A model is proposed based on these and previous data to account for the sequence-specific integration of the R2 retrotransposon.

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