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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Jul 3;92(14):6244-8.

The recombination hot spot chi activates RecBCD recombination by converting Escherichia coli to a recD mutant phenocopy.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403-1229, USA.


The products of the recB and recC genes are necessary for conjugal recombination and for repair of chromosomal double-chain breaks in Escherichia coli. The recD gene product combines with the RecB and RecC proteins to comprise RecBCD enzyme but is required for neither recombination nor repair. On the contrary, RecBCD enzyme is an exonuclease that inhibits recombination by destroying linear DNA. The RecD ejection model proposes that RecBCD enzyme enters a DNA duplex at a double-chain end and travels destructively until it encounters the recombination hot spot sequence chi. Chi then alters the RecBCD enzyme by weakening the affinity of the RecD subunit for the RecBC heterodimer. With the loss of the RecD subunit, the resulting protein, RecBC(D-), becomes deficient for exonuclease activity and proficient as a recombinagenic helicase. To test the model, genetic crosses between lambda phage were conducted in cells containing chi on a nonhomologous plasmid. Upon delivering a double-chain break to the plasmid, lambda recombined as if the cells had become recD mutants. The ability of chi to alter lambda recombination in trans was reversed by overproducing the RecD subunit. These results indicate that chi can influence a recombination act without directly participating in it.

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