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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2001 Jul 10;201(1):9-14.

What makes the bacteriophage lambda Red system useful for genetic engineering: molecular mechanism and biological function.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


Recent studies have generated interest in the use of the homologous recombination system of bacteriophage lambda for genetic engineering. The system, called Red, consists primarily of three proteins: lambda exonuclease, which processively digests the 5'-ended strand of a dsDNA end; beta protein, which binds to ssDNA and promotes strand annealing; and gamma protein, which binds to the bacterial RecBCD enzyme and inhibits its activities. These proteins induce a 'hyper-rec' state in Escherichia coli and other bacteria, in which recombination events between DNA species with as little as 40 bp of shared sequence occur at high frequency. Red-mediated recombination in the hyper-rec bacterium proceeds via a number of different pathways, and with the involvement of different sets of bacterial proteins, depending in part on the nature of the recombining DNA species. The role of high-frequency double-strand break repair/recombination in the life cycle of the lambdoid phages is discussed.

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