Loop L1 governs the DNA-binding specificity and order for RecA-catalyzed reactions in homologous recombination and DNA repair

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In all organisms, RecA-family recombinases catalyze homologous joint formation in homologous genetic recombination, which is essential for genome stability and diversification. In homologous joint formation, ATP-bound RecA/Rad51-recombinases first bind single-stranded DNA at its primary site and then interact with double-stranded DNA at another site. The underlying reason and the regulatory mechanism for this conserved binding order remain unknown. A comparison of the loop L1 structures in a DNA-free RecA crystal that we originally determined and in the reported DNA-bound active RecA crystals suggested that the aspartate at position 161 in loop L1 in DNA-free RecA prevented double-stranded, but not single-stranded, DNA-binding to the primary site. This was confirmed by the effects of the Ala-replacement of Asp-161 (D161A), analyzed directly by gel-mobility shift assays and indirectly by DNA-dependent ATPase activity and SOS repressor cleavage. When RecA/Rad51-recombinases interact with double-stranded DNA before single-stranded DNA, homologous joint-formation is suppressed, likely by forming a dead-end product. We found that the D161A-replacement reduced this suppression, probably by allowing double-stranded DNA to bind preferentially and reversibly to the primary site. Thus, Asp-161 in the flexible loop L1 of wild-type RecA determines the preference for single-stranded DNA-binding to the primary site and regulates the DNA-binding order in RecA-catalyzed recombinase reactions.

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