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J Mol Biol. 2011 Mar 18;407(1):45-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.01.030. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Probing cellular processes with oligo-mediated recombination and using the knowledge gained to optimize recombineering.

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Molecular Control and Genetics Section, Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


Recombination with single-strand DNA oligonucleotides (oligos) in Escherichia coli is an efficient and rapid way to modify replicons in vivo. The generation of nucleotide alteration by oligo recombination provides novel assays for studying cellular processes. Single-strand exonucleases inhibit oligo recombination, and recombination is increased by mutating all four known exonucleases. Increasing oligo concentration or adding nonspecific carrier oligo titrates out the exonucleases. In a model for oligo recombination, λ Beta protein anneals the oligo to complementary single-strand DNA at the replication fork. Mismatches are created, and the methyl-directed mismatch repair (MMR) system acts to eliminate the mismatches inhibiting recombination. Three ways to evade MMR through oligo design include, in addition to the desired change (1) a C·C mismatch 6 bp from that change; (2) four or more adjacent mismatches; or (3) mismatches at four or more consecutive wobble positions. The latter proves useful for making high-frequency changes that alter only the target amino acid sequence and even allows modification of essential genes. Efficient uptake of DNA is important for oligo-mediated recombination. Uptake of oligos or plasmids is dependent on media and is 10,000-fold reduced for cells grown in minimal versus rich medium. Genomewide engineering technologies utilizing recombineering will benefit from both optimized recombination frequencies and a greater understanding of how biological processes such as DNA replication and cell division impact recombinants formed at multiple chromosomal loci. Recombination events at multiple loci in individual cells are described here.

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