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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2003 Apr 11;221(1):1-6.

Mechanisms of replication and telomere resolution of the linear plasmid prophage N15.

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Centre Bioengineering, Russian Academy of Sciences, Prosp. 60-let Oktiabria, bld. 7-1, Moscow 117312, Russia.


The prophage of coliphage N15 is not integrated into the bacterial chromosome but exists as a linear plasmid molecule with covalently closed ends. Upon infection of an Escherichia coli cell, the phage DNA circularizes via cohensive ends. A phage-encoded enzyme, protelomerase, then cuts at another site, telRL, and forms hairpin ends (telomeres). Purified protelomerase alone processes circular and linear plasmid DNA containing the target site telRL to produce linear double-stranded DNA with covalently closed ends in vitro. N15 protelomerase is necessary for replication of the linear prophage through its action as a telomere-resolving enzyme. Replication of circular N15-based miniplasmids requires the only gene repA that encodes multidomain protein homologous to replication proteins of bacterial plasmids replicated by theta-mechanism, particularly, phage P4 alpha-replication protein. Replication of the N15 prophage is initiated at an internal ori site located within repA. Bidirectional replication results in formation of the circular head-to-head, tail-to-tail dimer molecule. Then the N15 protelomerase cuts both duplicated telomeres generating two linear plasmid molecules with covalently closed ends. The N15 prophage replication thus appears to follow the mechanism distinct from that employed by poxviruses and could serve as a model for other prokaryotic replicons with hairpin ends, and particularly, for linear plasmids and chromosomes of Borrelia burgdorferi.

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