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Cell. 1996 Apr 19;85(2):271-80.

Mu transpositional recombination: donor DNA cleavage and strand transfer in trans by the Mu transposase.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Central to the Mu transpositional recombination are the two chemical steps; donor DNA cleavage and strand transfer. These reactions occur within the Mu transpososome that contains two Mu DNA end segments bound to a tetramer of MuA, the transposase. To investigate which MuA monomer catalyzes which chemical reaction, we made transpososomes containing wild-type and active site mutant MuA. By pre-loading the MuA variants onto Mu end DNA fragments of different length prior to transpososome assembly, we could track the catalysis by MuA bound to each Mu end segment. The donor DNA end that underwent the chemical reaction was identified. Both the donor DNA cleavage and strand transfer were catalyzed in trans by the MuA monomers bound to the partner Mu end. This arrangement explains why the transpososome assembly is a prerequisite for the chemical steps.

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