Scientific article
Open access

Structural snapshots of Xer recombination reveal activation by synaptic complex remodeling and DNA bending

Published ineLife, vol. 5, e19706
Publication date2016-12-23
First online date2016-12-23

Bacterial Xer site-specific recombinases play an essential genome maintenance role by unlinking chromosome multimers, but their mechanism of action has remained structurally uncharacterized. Here, we present two high-resolution structures of Helicobacter pylori XerH with its recombination site DNA difH, representing pre-cleavage and post-cleavage synaptic intermediates in the recombination pathway. The structures reveal that activation of DNA strand cleavage and rejoining involves large conformational changes and DNA bending, suggesting how interaction with the cell division protein FtsK may license recombination at the septum. Together with biochemical and in vivo analysis, our structures also reveal how a small sequence asymmetry in difH defines protein conformation in the synaptic complex and orchestrates the order of DNA strand exchanges. Our results provide insights into the catalytic mechanism of Xer recombination and a model for regulation of recombination activity during cell division.

  • E. coli
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Biophysics
  • Chromosome segregation
  • Chromosomes
  • Genes
  • Genome maintenance
  • Microbiology
  • Site-specific DNA recombination
  • Structural biology
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory - [International PhD Programme Graduate Student Fellowship]
  • Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung - [Postdoctoral Fellowship]
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory - [Intramural Funds]
Citation (ISO format)
BEBEL, Aleksandra et al. Structural snapshots of Xer recombination reveal activation by synaptic complex remodeling and DNA bending. In: eLife, 2016, vol. 5, p. e19706. doi: 10.7554/eLife.19706
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2050-084X

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