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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Apr;60(1):152-64.

NBU1 integrase: evidence for an altered recombination mechanism.

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1
Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6142, USA.

Abstract

NBU1 is a 10.3 kbp Bacteroides mobilizable transposon. A previous study had identified a 2.7 kbp segment of the excised circular intermediate that was sufficient to mediate integration of the element after transfer. This segment contained an integrase gene, intN1, and a region spanning the ends of the circular form within which integration occurred (attN1). The integrase protein, IntN1, appeared to be a member of the tyrosine recombinase family because it contains the canonical C-terminal RKHRHY [RK(H/K)R(H/W)Y] motif that characterizes members of that family. In this study, we describe an Escherichia coli-based integration assay system that has allowed us to characterize attN1 in detail. We first localized attN1 to a 250 bp region. We then used site-directed mutations to identify directly repeated sequences within attN1 that were required for site-specific integration. The locus of NBU1 site-specific integration in the Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron chromosome, attBT1-1, contains a 14 bp sequence that is identical to a 14 bp sequence that spans the joined ends of the NBU1 attN1 site (common core sequences). The effects of mutations in the common core were different from the expected results if NBU1 integration was similar to lambda integration. In particular single base changes near one end of the common core region, which introduced heterology, actually increased the frequency of integration. By contrast, compensating changes that restored homology in the common core region reduced the integration frequency. The recombination mechanism also differs from the one used by conjugative transposons that have coupling sequences between the sites of strand cleavage and exchange. These results indicate that although NBU1 integrase is considered to be a member of the tyrosine recombinase family, it catalyses an integrative recombination reaction that occurs by a different crossover mechanism.

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