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Mol Gen Genet. 1981;183(1):139-43.

The process of general recombination in Escherichia coli K-12: structure of intermediate products.


A review of the data on the genetic determination of general recombination in Escherichia coli introduces three alternative pathways of recombination, RecBC, RecF, and RecBCF. One recBC-dependent pathway is functional in recF- cells. An initiating endonuclease is involved, acting on the chi-sites of DNA. The second is recF-dependent, acting in the double mutant recBC sbcB. The corresponding endonuclease uses the fre-sites as a substrate. A third pathway acting in wild-type cells is mixed. Both enzymatic systems participate in the overall process. We shall call it RecBCF. Using the thermosensitive recA44 mutant it became possible to study the kinetics of integration of donor DNA into the recipient chromosome via the RecF and RecBCF pathways of recombination. The RecF pathway is characterized by delayed recombination; not less than 14 h being needed to complete the process at 35 degrees C. By the RecBCF pathway (wild-type recipient) the reaction is fast, as described by Lloyd and Johnson (1979). The two stage nature of the RecF pathway is important. First an intermediate product is formed during a short time interval. This product is resistant to the degrading exonuclease V. Afterward the intermediate product is slowly integrated into the recipient chromosome. Autoradiography of this intermediate product, extracted from exconjugants, shows that it consists of closed DNA circles. Their length is within the limits 2--15 min on the E. coli map. Their average value is in fair agreement with genetic estimations of the integrated DNA fragments. Taking into consideration the similarity between genetic determinations of the fre-effects and the heterogeneity of the progeny, we conclude that the intermediate structures formed contribute to this heterogeneity.

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