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Genes Dev. 1988 Aug;2(8):937-48.

Phase variation in Salmonella: analysis of Hin recombinase and hix recombination site interaction in vivo.

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  • 1Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


The bacteriophage P22-based challenge phase selection was used to characterize the binding of Salmonella Hin recombinase to the wild-type hixL and hixR recombination sites, as well as to mutant and synthetic hix sequences in vivo. Hin recombinase binds to the hixL or hixR recombination sites and represses transcription from an upstream promoter in the challenge phage system. Hin-mediated repression results from Hin associating into multimers either prior to binding or during the binding process at the hix operator sites (cooperativity). The ability of Hin multimers to repress transcription is eliminated when the hix 13-bp half-sites are rotated to opposite sides of the DNA helix by inserting 4 bp between them. Insertion of 1 bp between half-sites reduces overall repression. Hin also binds one of the hixL half-sites to repress transcription, but only when high levels of Hin protein are present in the cell. Mutations have been identified in the hix sites that impair Hin binding. Five of the 26 bp in the hix sites are critical; sites with base-pair substitutions at these five positions show greatly reduced binding. Three additional base pairs make minor contributions to binding. These results are consistent with the results of binding studies between Hin and the hix sites in vitro.

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