The RecE recombination pathway mediates recombination between partially homologous DNA sequences: Structural analysis of recombination products

Paul S Keim, Karl G. Lark

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Escherichia coli generalized recombination, utilizing the RecA RecB recombination pathway, requires large stretches (70-200 bp) of complete DNA sequence homology. In contrast, we have found that the RecE pathway can promote recombination between DNA with only short stretches of homology. A plasmid containing 10 partially homologous direct repeats was linearized by digestion with specific restriction enzymes. After transformation, a RecE+ (sbcA) host was able to circularize the plasmid by recombination between partially homologous direct repeat sequences. Recombination occurred in regions of as little as 6 by of perfect homology. Recombination was enhanced in the regions adjacent to restriction sites used to linearize the plasmid, consistent with a role of double-strand breaks in promoting recombination. A mechanism is proposed in which the 5′ exonuclease, ExoVIII, produces 3′ single-stranded ends from the linearized plasmid. These pair with other sequences of partial homology. Partial homologies in the sequences flanking the actual join serve to stabilize this recombination intermediate. Recombination is completed by a process of "copy and join." This recombination mechanism requires less homology to stabilize intermediates than the degree of homology needed for mechanisms involving strand invasion. Its role in nature may be to increase genomic diversity, for example, by enhancing recombination between bacteriophages and regions of the bacterial chromosome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology

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