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EMBO J. 1989 Nov;8(11):3523-33.

Heteroduplex substrates for bacteriophage lambda site-specific recombination: cleavage and strand transfer products.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Lambda's Int protein acts as a specific topoisomerase at attachment sites, the DNA segments that are required for site-specific recombination. Int cleaves each strand of an attachment site at a unique place and creates strand exchanges by joining broken ends from two different parents. To study the action of Int topoisomerase in more detail, heteroduplex attachment sites were made by annealing strands that are complementary except for a few base pairs that lie in the region between the points of top and bottom strand exchange in the attachment site core. These heteroduplexes appear to interact normally with Int and its accessory proteins IHF and Xis. Although the heteroduplex sites are specifically cleaved by Int topoisomerase, rejoining of the broken DNA is hindered by the lack of Watson--Crick complementarity adjacent to the break. Because of this, heteroduplexes accumulate broken intermediates which are then processed in novel ways. We have used this feature to provide new information about functional differences between attachment sites, to investigate the way Xis protein controls directionality of site-specific recombination, and to demonstrate that Int protein can join strands indiscriminately and can therefore generate recombinants with either of two genetic polarities.

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