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Nature. 2002 Jun 6;417(6889):656-9.

Filamentous phage integration requires the host recombinases XerC and XerD.

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Division of Geographic Medicine/Infectious Diseases, New England Medical Center and Department of Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 750 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


Many bacteriophages and animal viruses integrate their genomes into the chromosomal DNA of their hosts as a method of promoting vertical transmission. Phages that integrate in a site-specific fashion encode an integrase enzyme that catalyses recombination between the phage and host genomes. CTX phi is a filamentous bacteriophage that contains the genes encoding cholera toxin, the principal virulence factor of the diarrhoea-causing Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae. CTX phi integrates into the V. cholerae genome in a site-specific manner; however, the approximately 6.9-kilobase (kb) CTX phi genome does not encode any protein with significant homology to known recombinases. Here we report that XerC and XerD, two chromosome-encoded recombinases that ordinarily function to resolve chromosome dimers at the dif recombination site, are essential for CTX phi integration into the V. cholerae genome. The CTX phi integration site was found to overlap with the dif site of the larger of the two V. cholerae chromosomes. Examination of sequences of the integration sites of other filamentous phages indicates that the XerCD recombinases also mediate the integration of these phage genomes at dif-like sites in various bacterial species.

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