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EMBO J. 1988 Dec 20;7(13):4389-95.

The arginine repressor is essential for plasmid-stabilizing site-specific recombination at the ColE1 cer locus.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Glasgow, UK.


The heritable stability in Escherichia coli of the multicopy plasmid ColE1 and its natural relatives requires that the plasmids be maintained in the monomeric state. Plasmid multimers, that arise through recA-dependent homologous recombination, are normally converted to monomers by a site-specific recombination system that acts at a specific plasmid site (cer in ColE1). No plasmid functions that act at this site have been identified. In contrast, two unlinked E.coli genes that encode functions required for cer-mediated site-specific recombination have been identified. Here we describe the isolation and characterization of one such gene (xerA) and show it to be identical to the gene encoding the repressor of the arginine biosynthetic genes (argR). The argR protein binds to cer DNA both in vivo and in vitro in the presence of arginine. We believe this binding is required to generate a higher order protein-DNA complex within the recombinational synapse. The argR gene of Bacillus subtilis complements an E.coli argR deficiency for cer-mediated recombination despite the two proteins having only 27% amino acid identity.

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