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J Mol Biol. 1991 Jun 20;219(4):645-54.

The effects on strand exchange of 5' versus 3' ends of single-stranded DNA in RecA nucleoprotein filaments.

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Department of Human Genetics and Molecular Biophysics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven CT 06510.


Since the ends of DNA chains are thought to be important in homologous recombination, the way in which RecA protein and similar recombination enzymes process ends is important. We analyzed the effects of ends both on the formation of joints, and the progression of strand exchange. When the only homologous end was provided by a single strand, there was no significant difference between the formation of joints at a 5' end or a 3' end; but in agreement with the report of Konforti & Davis, Escherichia coli single-stranded DNA binding protein (SSB) selectively inhibited the activity of 5' ends. Complete strand exchange, assessed by study of linear single-stranded and double-stranded substrates, took place only in the 5' to 3' direction relative to DNA in the nucleoprotein filament. These observations pose a paradox: in the presence of SSB, of which there are about 800 tetramers per cell, the formation of homologous joints by RecA protein is favored at a 3' end, from which, however, authentic strand exchange appears not to occur. Since observations reported here and elsewhere show that joints have different properties when formed at a 5' versus a 3' end, we suggest that they may be processed differently in vivo.

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