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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 17;98(15):8454-60.

The architecture of the human Rad54-DNA complex provides evidence for protein translocation along DNA.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, Center for Biomedical Genetics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Proper maintenance and duplication of the genome require accurate recombination between homologous DNA molecules. In eukaryotic cells, the Rad51 protein mediates pairing between homologous DNA molecules. This reaction is assisted by the Rad54 protein. To gain insight into how Rad54 functions, we studied the interaction of the human Rad54 (hRad54) protein with double-stranded DNA. We have recently shown that binding of hRad54 to DNA induces a change in DNA topology. To determine whether this change was caused by a protein-constrained change in twist, a protein-constrained change in writhe, or the introduction of unconstrained plectonemic supercoils, we investigated the hRad54--DNA complex by scanning force microscopy. The architecture of the observed complexes suggests that movement of the hRad54 protein complex along the DNA helix generates unconstrained plectonemic supercoils. We discuss how hRad54-induced superhelical stress in the target DNA may function to facilitate homologous DNA pairing by the hRad51 protein directly. In addition, the induction of supercoiling by hRad54 could stimulate recombination indirectly by displacing histones and/or other proteins packaging the DNA into chromatin. This function of DNA translocating motors might be of general importance in chromatin metabolism.

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