Real-time solution measurement of RAD51- and RecA-mediated strand assimilation without background annealing

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RAD51 is the central strand exchange recombinase in somatic homologous recombination, providing genomic stability and promoting resistance to DNA damage. An important tool for mechanistic studies of RAD51 is the D-loop or strand assimilation assay, which measures the ability of RAD51-coated single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) to search for, invade and exchange ssDNA strands with a homologous duplex DNA target. As cancer cells generally overexpress RAD51, the D-loop assay has also emerged as an important tool in oncologic drug design programs for targeting RAD51. Previous studies have adapted the traditional gel-based D-loop assay by using fluorescence-based substrates, which in principle allow for use in high-throughput screening platforms. However, these existing D-loop methods depend on linear oligonucleotide DNA duplex targets, and these substrates enable recombinase-independent ssDNA annealing that can obscure the recombinase-dependent strand assimilation signal. This compelled us to fundamentally re-design this assay, using a fluorescent target substrate that consists of a covalently closed linear double-hairpin dsDNA. This new microplate-based method represents a fast, inexpensive and non-radioactive alternative to existing D-loop assays. It provides accurate kinetic analysis of strand assimilation in high-throughput and performs well with human RAD51 andEscherichia coliRecA protein. This advance will aid in both mechanistic studies of homologous recombination and drug screening programs.

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