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Cell. 1996 Oct 18;87(2):263-76.

The homeodomain region of Rag-1 reveals the parallel mechanisms of bacterial and V(D)J recombination.

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Ruttenberg Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


The V(D)J recombinase subunits Rag-1 and Rag-2 mediate assembly of antigen receptor gene segments. We studied the mechanisms of DNA recognition by Rag-1/Rag-2 using surface plasmon resonance. The critical step for signal recognition is binding of Rag-1 to the nonamer. This is achieved by a region of Rag-1 homologous to the DNA-binding domain of the Hin family of bacterial invertases and to homeodomain proteins. Strikingly, the Hin homeodomain can functionally substitute for the Rag-1 homologous region. Rag-1 also interacts with the heptamer but with low affinity. Rag-2 shows no direct binding to DNA. Once the Rag-1/Rag-2 complex is engaged on the DNA, subsequent cleavage is directed by the heptamer sequence. This order of events remarkably parallels mechanisms that mediate transposition in bacteria and nematodes.

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