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Gene. 1984 Oct;30(1-3):183-94.

The maturation of coliphage lambda DNA in the absence of its packaging.


In vivo, lambda DNA cannot be cleaved at cos (matured) if proheads are not present; in vitro, however, cos cleavage readily takes place in the absence of proheads. In order to investigate this paradox, we have constructed plasmids that synthesize lambda terminase in vivo upon induction. The plasmids also contain cos at the normal position, about 190 bp upstream of lambda gene Nul. One of the plasmids, pFM3, produces levels of terminase comparable to those found after phage induction. If cells carrying pFM3 are thermoinduced, almost 100% of the intracellular plasmid DNA has a double-strand interruption at or near cos. Since the only lambda genes that pFM3 carries are Nul, A, W and B, this in vivo cleavage is occurring in the absence of proheads. Previous failure to observe lambda maturation with phages carrying prohead mutations may be due to exonucleolytic degradation of the unprotected DNA ends, a different DNA topology or compartmentalization, or terminase inhibition in the absence of prohead by the product of another lambda gene that maps to the right of gene B.

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