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J Virol. 1998 Nov;72(11):8772-81.

In vitro processing of herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA replication intermediates by the viral alkaline nuclease, UL12.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.


Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) DNA replication intermediates exist in a complex nonlinear structure that does not migrate into a pulsed-field gel. Genetic evidence suggests that the product of the UL12 gene, termed alkaline nuclease, plays a role in processing replication intermediates (R. Martinez, R. T. Sarisky, P. C. Weber, and S. K. Weller, J. Virol. 70:2075-2085, 1996). In this study we have tested the hypothesis that alkaline nuclease acts as a structure-specific resolvase. Cruciform structures generated with oligonucleotides were treated with purified alkaline nuclease; however, instead of being resolved into linear duplexes as would be expected of a resolvase activity, the artificial cruciforms were degraded. DNA replication intermediates were isolated from the well of a pulsed-field gel ("well DNA") and treated with purified HSV-1 alkaline nuclease. Although alkaline nuclease can degrade virion DNA to completion, digestion of well DNA results in a smaller-than-unit-length product that migrates as a heterogeneous smear; this product is resistant to further digestion by alkaline nuclease. The smaller-than-unit-length products are representative of the entire HSV genome, indicating that alkaline nuclease is not inhibited at specific sequences. To further probe the structure of replicating DNA, well DNA was treated with various known nucleases; our results indicate that replicating DNA apparently contains no accessible double-stranded ends but does contain nicks and gaps. Our data suggest that UL12 functions at nicks and gaps in replicating DNA to correctly repair or process the replicating genome into a form suitable for encapsidation.

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