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Genes Dev. 2000 Mar 1;14(5):559-73.

Rules for DNA target-site recognition by a lactococcal group II intron enable retargeting of the intron to specific DNA sequences.

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Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Group II intron homing occurs primarily by a mechanism in which the intron RNA reverse splices into a DNA target site and is then reverse transcribed by the intron-encoded protein. The DNA target site is recognized by an RNP complex containing the intron-encoded protein and the excised intron RNA. Here, we analyzed DNA target-site requirements for the Lactococcus lactis Ll.LtrB group II intron in vitro and in vivo. Our results suggest a model similar to yeast mtDNA introns, in which the intron-encoded protein first recognizes a small number of nucleotide residues in double-stranded DNA and causes DNA unwinding, enabling the intron RNA to base-pair with the DNA for reverse splicing. Antisense-strand cleavage requires additional interactions between the protein and 3' exon. Key nucleotide residues are recognized directly by the intron-encoded protein independent of sequence context, and there is a stringent requirement for fixed spacing between target site elements recognized by the protein and RNA components of the endonuclease. Experiments with DNA substrates containing GC-clamps or "bubbles" indicate a requirement for DNA unwinding in the 3' exon but not the distal 5' exon region. Finally, by applying the target-site recognition rules, we show that the L1.LtrB intron can be modified to insert at new sites in a plasmid-borne thyA gene in Escherichia coli. This strategy should be generally applicable to retargeting group II introns and to delivering foreign sequences to specific sites in heterologous genomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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