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J Mol Biol. 1985 Jul 20;184(2):211-20.

Phage P1 Cre-loxP site-specific recombination. Effects of DNA supercoiling on catenation and knotting of recombinant products.


Bacteriophage P1 contains a site-specific recombination system consisting of a site, loxP, and a recombinase protein Cre. We have shown that with purified Cre protein we can carry out recombination between two loxP sites in vitro. When that recombination occurs between two sites in direct orientation on the same DNA molecule, we observed the production of free and catenated circular molecules. In this paper we show that recombination between sites in opposite orientation leads to both knotted and unknotted circular products. We also demonstrate that the production of catenanes and knots is influenced by two factors: (1) supercoiling in the DNA substrate, supercoiled DNA substrates yield significantly more catenated and knotted products than nicked circular substrates; and (2) mutations in the loxP site, a class of mutations have been isolated that carry out recombination but result in a distribution of products in which the ratio of catenanes to free circles is increased over that observed with a wild-type site. A more detailed analysis of the products from recombination between wild-type sites indicates: (1) that the catenanes or knots produced by recombination are both simple and complex; (2) that the ratio of free products to catenanes is independent of the distance between the two directly repeated loxP sites; and (3) that for DNA substrates with four loxP sites significant recombination between non-adjacent sites occurs to give free circular products. These observations provide insights into how two loxP sites are brought together during recombination.

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