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J Mol Biol. 1997 Feb 21;266(2):297-305.

Short-homology-independent illegitimate recombination in Escherichia coli: distinct mechanism from short-homology-dependent illegitimate recombination.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo PO Takanawa, Japan.


We have shown elsewhere that there is no, or very little, homology at the recombination sites in DNA gyrase-mediated illegitimate recombination in vitro. On the other hand, many reports have indicated that illegitimate recombination takes place between sequences with a short homology. To clarify this contradiction, we analyzed the mechanism of DNA gyrase-mediated illegitimate recombination in vivo, by isolating a temperature-sensitive gyrA mutant (gyrAhr1) that causes spontaneous illegitimate recombination at a higher frequency than that of the wild-type. This mutant also causes spontaneous induction of lambda prophage. It is therefore suggested that the gyrAhr1 mutation induces strand breaks in the chromosome, resulting in the formation of illegitimate recombinants. Analysis of the recombination junctions of lambdabio transducing phages formed spontaneously in the gyrAhr1 mutant revealed that the Escherichia coli bio and lambda recombination sites have an average homologous sequence of only 1.3 base pairs. This is the first indication that homology in vivo is not required for illegitimate recombination. On the other hand, a short homology of 8.4 bp, on average, was found in the junctions of lambdabio transducing phages formed spontaneously in the wild-type bacteria. When the gyrAhr1 mutant was irradiated with UV, short homologies were also detected in the junctions. We concluded that illegitimate recombination, which takes place spontaneously in the gyrAhr1 mutants, is distinguishable from spontaneous recombination in the wild-type and from UV-induced recombination in the mutant with regard to the requirement for short homology. We propose that short-homology-independent illegitimate recombination is mediated by subunit exchange between DNA gyrase, while short-homology-dependent recombination is triggered by double-strand breaks and completed by processing, annealing, and ligation of DNA ends.

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