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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2014;68:237-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-091313-103424. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

Recombination promoted by DNA viruses: phage λ to herpes simplex virus.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030; email:


The purpose of this review is to explore recombination strategies in DNA viruses. Homologous recombination is a universal genetic process that plays multiple roles in the biology of all organisms, including viruses. Recombination and DNA replication are interconnected, with recombination being essential for repairing DNA damage and supporting replication of the viral genome. Recombination also creates genetic diversity, and viral recombination mechanisms have important implications for understanding viral origins as well as the dynamic nature of viral-host interactions. Both bacteriophage λ and herpes simplex virus (HSV) display high rates of recombination, both utilizing their own proteins and commandeering cellular proteins to promote recombination reactions. We focus primarily on λ and HSV, as they have proven amenable to both genetic and biochemical analysis and have recently been shown to exhibit some surprising similarities that will guide future studies.


DNA replication; concatemer formation; exonucleases; recombineering; single-strand annealing; single-strand annealing proteins

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