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EMBO J. 2009 Feb 18;28(4):405-16. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.298. Epub 2009 Jan 22.

BLM helicase measures DNA unwound before switching strands and hRPA promotes unwinding reinitiation.

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Department of Physics, Center for the Physics of Living Cells, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Bloom syndrome (BS) is a rare genetic disorder characterized by genomic instability and a high predisposition to cancer. The gene defective in BS, BLM, encodes a member of the RecQ family of 3'-5' DNA helicases, and is proposed to function in recombinational repair during DNA replication. Here, we have utilized single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer microscopy to examine the behaviour of BLM on forked DNA substrates. Strikingly, BLM unwound individual DNA molecules in a repetitive manner, unwinding a short length of duplex DNA followed by rapid reannealing and reinitiation of unwinding in several successions. Our results show that a monomeric BLM can 'measure' how many base pairs it has unwound, and once it has unwound a critical length, it reverses the unwinding reaction through strand switching and translocating on the opposing strand. Repetitive unwinding persisted even in the presence of hRPA, and interaction between wild-type BLM and hRPA was necessary for unwinding reinitiation on hRPA-coated DNA. The reported activities may facilitate BLM processing of stalled replication forks and illegitimately formed recombination intermediates.

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