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J Mol Biol. 1990 Mar 5;212(1):79-96.

Nature of the SOS-inducing signal in Escherichia coli. The involvement of DNA replication.

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Section of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


The SOS genes of Escherichia coli, which include many DNA repair genes, are induced by DNA damage. Although the central biochemical event in induction, activation of RecA protein through binding of single-stranded DNA and ATP to promote cleavage of the LexA repressor, is known, the cellular event that provides this activation following DNA damage has not been well understood. We provide evidence here that the major pathway of induction after damage by a typical agent, ultraviolet light, requires an active replication fork; this result supports the model that DNA replication leaves gaps where elongation stops at damage-induced lesions, and thus provides the single-stranded DNA that activates RecA protein. In order to detect quantitatively the immediate product of the inducing signal, activated RecA protein, we have designed an assay to measure the rate of disappearance of intact LexA repressor. With this assay, we have studied the early phase of the induction process. LexA cleavage is detectable within minutes after DNA damage and occurs in the absence of protein synthesis. By following the reaccumulation of LexA in the cell, we detect repair of DNA and the disappearance of the inducing signal. Using this assay, we have measured the LexA content of wild-type and various mutant cells, characterized the kinetics and conditions for development of the inducing signal after various inducing treatments and, finally, have shown the requirement for DNA replication in SOS induction by ultraviolet light.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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