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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Sep;33(5):895-903.

The plasmid prophage N15: a linear DNA with covalently closed ends.

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Department of Biophysics, State Technical University, Saint Petersburg 195251, Russia.


Coliphage N15 is a temperate bacteriophage whose prophage is a linear plasmid molecule with covalently closed ends (telomeres). The N15 prophage provided the first example of such DNA in prokaryotes and, up to now, it is the only known example of a linear plasmid in Escherichia coli. The linear N15 mature phage DNA has single-stranded cohesive ends. The phage and plasmid prophage DNAs are circularly permuted. The nucleotide structure of the telomere-forming site tel RL in phage DNA corresponds to the structures of the terminal hairpin loops. It suggests a unique mechanism for conversion of the circular phage DNA to the linear plasmid form, which is performed by the prokaryotic telomerase (protelomerase). The results of a comparison of the protelomerase with integrases lead us to suggest that these proteins may have evolved from a common ancestor. The mechanism of plasmid N15 replication is unknown. We propose that the protelomerase participates in linear plasmid replication, acting as a resolvase of replicative intermediates that are tail-to-tail linear dimers. The sequence analysis of the N15 DNA showed that it represents an evolutionary 'link' between plasmids F, P1, P4 and lambdoid bacteriophages.

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