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Adv Biophys. 2004;38:183-213.

Structure and function of the shufflon in plasmid R64.

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Department of Biology, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachioji, Tokyo 192-0397, Japan.


Conservative site-specific recombination plays key roles in creating biological diversity in prokaryotes. Most site-specific inversion systems consist of two recombination sites and a recombinase gene. In contrast, the shufflon multiple inversion system of plasmid R64 consists of seven sfx recombination sites, which separate four invertible DNA segments, and the rci gene encoding a site-specific recombinase of the integrase family. The rci product mediates recombination between any two inverted sfx sites, resulting in the inversion of four DNA segments independently or in groups. Random shufflon inversions construct seven pilV genes encoding constant N-terminal segment with different C-terminal segments. The pilV products are tip-located adhesins of the type IV pilus, called the thin pilus, of R64 and recognize lipopolysaccharides of recipient bacterial cells during R64 liquid matings. Thus, the shufflon determines the recipient specificity of liquid matings. Rci protein of R64 was overexpressed, purified, and used for in vitro recombination reactions. The cleavage and rejoining of DNA strands in shufflon recombinations were found to take place in the form of a 5' protruding 7-bp staggered cut within sfx sequences. Thus, the sfx sequence is asymmetric: only the 7-bp spacer sequence and the right arm sequence are conserved among various R64 sfxs, whereas the sfx left arm sequences are not conserved. Rci protein was shown to bind to entire sfx sequences, suggesting that it binds to the right arms of the sfx sequences in a sequence-specific manner and to their left arms in a non-sequence-specific manner. The sfx left arm sequences greatly affected the shufflon inversion frequency. The artificial symmetric sfx sequence, in which the sfx left arm was changed to the inverted repeat sequence of the right arm, exhibited the highest inversion frequency. Rci-dependent deletion of a DNA segment flanked by two symmetric sfx sequences in direct orientation was observed, suggesting that the asymmetry of sfx sequences may prevent recombination between sfx sequences in direct orientation in the R64 shufflon. The Rci C-terminal domain was not required for recombination using the symmetric sfx sequence. A model, where the C-terminal domain of Rci protein plays a key role in the sequence-specific and non-specific binding of Rci to asymmetric sfx sites, was proposed. Site-specific recombination in the temperate phage Mx8 of M. xanthus was also described. The Mx8 attP site is located within the coding sequence of the Mx8 intP gene. Therefore, the integration of Mx8 into the M. xanthus chromosome results in the conversion of the intP gene into a new gene, intR. As a result of this conversion, the 112-amino-acid C-terminal sequence of the intP product is replaced with a 13-amino acid sequence of the intR product. The C-terminal domain of Mx8 IntP recombinase is only required for integration and not for excision.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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