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CRC Crit Rev Biochem. 1988;23 Suppl 1:S43-86.

DNA strand exchanges.

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Lineberger Cancer Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


Biochemical and electron microscopic studies of the strand exchange reactions catalyzed by the RecA protein of Escherichia coli and the UvsX protein of T4 phage reveal that these reactions proceed in three distinct steps. The first step, termed joining, involves the assembly of RecA (or UvsX) protein onto a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) molecule and the subsequent search for homology with a double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) partner and formation of a stable synapsis. In the second step (envelopment/exchange), the exchange of DNA strands occurs fueled by the hydrolysis of ATP. The third step (release of products) entails the resolution of the complexes and dissociation of the protein from the DNAs. The structure of the intermediates in the in vitro reactions catalyzed by the RecA and UvsX proteins is emphasized in this review. The results of pairing different DNA molecules in vitro (such as linear ssDNA pairing with linear or supertwisted dsDNA) are described. Paranemic joints represent a major pathway of joining between two DNA molecules which may involve, in some cases, most of the DNA substrate molecules. Since the nature of paranemic joints has only recently begun to be understood, the nature, role, and possible in vivo function of paranemic joining are considered.

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