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J Mol Biol. 1985 Jan 20;181(2):187-97.

Extent of sequence homology required for bacteriophage lambda site-specific recombination.


Bacteriophage lambda integration and excision occur by reciprocal recombination within a 15-base homologous core region present in the recombining attachment (att) sites. Strand exchange within the core occurs at precise nucleotide positions, which define an overlap region in which the products of recombination contain DNA strands derived from different parents. In order to define the role of sequence homology during recombination we have constructed point mutations within the core and assayed their effects in vivo and in vitro on site-specific recombination. Two of the mutations are located at position -3 of the core, which is one base-pair outside of the overlap region where strand exchange occurs. These mutations do not affect integrative or excisive recombination, thereby suggesting that homology outside the overlap region is not required for recombination. Two other mutations are located at position -2 of the core, which is one base-pair within the overlap region. These mutations show severely depressed integrative and excisive recombination activities in vitro and in vivo when recombined against wild-type att sites. However, the -2 mutations show normal recombination activity when recombined against att sites containing the homologous mutation, thereby suggesting that homology-dependent DNA interactions are required within the overlap region for effective recombination. In vitro recombination between homoduplex attP sites and heteroduplex attB sites demonstrated that the DNA interactions require only one strand of the attB overlap region to be homologous to attP in order to promote recombination.

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