Monday, March 31, 2008

RecQ's Role in Illegitimate Recombination

ResearchBlogging.orgis a ubiquitous event that occurs in every species; it is necessary for the production of unique gametes, it is involved in DNA damage repair, it provides a mechanism for evolution, and it is a required action for many viruses and phages to undergo nucleic acid replication.(My discussion here will focus entirely on recombination in prokaryotes and their viruses)

There are three different types of recombination: homologous recombination--where DNA of significant sequence similarity recombines, non-homologous recombination--where DNA without significant sequence similarity recombines (usually along gene boundaries), and finally there is illegitimate recombination--where DNA recombines randomly.

Although DNA is surprisingly fluid, there are enzymes that mediate recombination--by initiating DNA binding, strand invasion, and stabilizing ssDNA intermediates. Also, of important note, is that organisms have varying degrees of recombination levels. A classical example occurs within the Mycobacteria. Mycobacterium smegmatis has relatively low levels of illegitimate recombination (IR), while M. tuberculosis is notorious for high levels of IR compared to homologous recombination. This raises a question that can be phrased in a few ways. "What enzymes are responsible for IR?" or perhaps, "What enzymes for homologous recombination are lacking?"

I performed a cursory search of the Rec-type proteins in both M. smegmatis and M. tuberculosis, and found that M. smegmatis contained a RecQ homologue, while M. tuberculosis did not. A literature searched showed that RecQ is a DNA helicase that is involved in the suppression of IR (Hanada and colleagues in this paper published back in 1997) in E. coli.

The paper describes a rather elegant experiment to see the frequency of IR by utilizing a specialized transducing phage. Briefly, a specialized transducing phage is a lysogenic phage that, upon excision from the chromosome, accidentally packages host DNA located directly adjacent to the integrated. This event is usually very rare and is catalyzed by an IR event. Therefore, any changes that increase IR frequency will increase the frequency of transducing particles. In this instance, the authors used , and a screened for the production of transducing particles.

The authors found that in a recQ minus strain, the number of transducing particles increased 10-100x higher than wild type (depending on conditions and marker used). This increase could be removed by the complementation of recQ. Furthermore, the authors found that this pathway was independent of the well characterized RecA pathway by creating a recQ / recA double mutant and finding no difference in IR from the recQ mutant.

They discuss further associations with the RecJOF pathways, however, delving further into a discussion on Rec pathways is beyond the scope of what I can discuss here. (More information can easily be found by searching Google for "Rec proteins")

Since this study was published back in 1997, it made me curious as to whether anyone has studied the lack of recQ in M. tuberculosis, its presence in M. smegmatis, and their drastic differences in IR. As it turns out, no one has (to my knowledge).

I am currently interested in examining recombination functions necessary for phage replication in the Mycobacteria. You can read about my and I will post a recent update here (coming soon). I'm currently working on knocking out recQ in M. smegmatis and expressing recQ in M. tuberculosis and asking if there are effects on phage infection. There is already a system in place that overcomes IR in M. tuberculosis to allow allelic exchange, ( Nat Methods. 2007 Feb;4(2):147-52.) and I am testing this system as well.

For more information on Mycobacterial Genetics, I suggest the following book which is the most recent text on the subject.

Molecular Genetics Mycobacteria

Hanada, K., Ukita, T., Kohno, Y., Saito, K., Kato, J., Ikeda, H. (1997). RecQ DNA helicase is a suppressor of illegitimate recombination in Escherichiacoli. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 94(8), 3860-3865.

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