RecBCD Enzyme "Chi Recognition" Mutants Recognize Chi Recombination Hotspots in the Right DNA Context.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Genetics, Volume 204, Issue 1, p.139-52 (2016)


RecBCD enzyme is a complex, three-subunit protein machine essential for the major pathway of DNA double-strand break repair and homologous recombination in Escherichia coli Upon encountering a Chi recombination hotspot during DNA unwinding, RecBCD nicks DNA to produce a single-stranded DNA end onto which it loads RecA protein. Conformational changes that regulate RecBCD's helicase and nuclease activities are induced upon its interaction with Chi, defined historically as 5' GCTGGTGG 3'. Chi is thought to be recognized as single-stranded DNA passing through a tunnel in RecC. To define the Chi-recognition domain in RecC and thus the mechanism of the RecBCD-Chi interaction, we altered by random mutagenesis eight RecC amino acids lining the tunnel. We screened for loss of Chi activity with Chi at one site in bacteriophage lambda. The 25 recC mutants analyzed thoroughly had undetectable or strongly reduced Chi hotspot activity with previously reported Chi sites. Remarkably, most of these mutants had readily detectable, and some nearly wild-type, activity with Chi at newly generated Chi sites. Like wild-type RecBCD, these mutants had Chi activity that responded dramatically (up to 5-fold, equivalent to Chi's hotspot activity) to nucleotide changes flanking 5' GCTGGTGG 3'. Thus, these and previously published RecC mutants thought to be Chi-recognition mutants are actually Chi context-dependence mutants. Our results fundamentally alter the view that Chi is a simple eight base-pair sequence recognized by the RecC tunnel. We propose that Chi hotspots have dual nucleotide sequence interactions, with both the RecC tunnel and the RecB nuclease domain.