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J Mol Biol. 2000 Feb 4;295(5):1163-72.

Two active-site tyrosyl residues of protein TrwC act sequentially at the origin of transfer during plasmid R388 conjugation.

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Departamento de Biología Molecular, Universidad de Cantabria, C. Cardenal Herrera Oria s/n, Santander, 39011, Spain.


Protein TrwC is the relaxase-helicase responsible for the initiation and termination reactions of DNA processing during plasmid R388 conjugation. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to change to phenylalanine each of a set of four conserved tyrosyl residues in the sequence of the N-terminal relaxation domain of the protein. Simultaneous mutation of both Y18 and Y26 was required to abolish in vitro cleavage and strand-transfer reactions catalyzed by protein TrwC on oligonucleotides containing the nic site. Thus, both Y18 and Y26 could be involved independently in the formation of oligonucleotide-protein covalent complexes that constitute presumed intermediates of these reactions. This hypothesis was confirmed by the observation of Y18 and Y26-specific peptide-oligonucleotide adducts after protease digestion of TrwC and mutant derivatives. Finally mutation Y18F, but not mutation Y26F, abolished nic-cleavage of a supercoiled DNA containing the R388 origin of transfer (oriT). These data allowed the construction of a model for conjugative DNA processing in which Y18 specifically catalyzes the initial cleavage reaction, while Y26 is used for the second strand-transfer reaction, which terminates conjugation. The model suggests a control mechanism that can be effective at each conjugative replication cycle.

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