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The interaction between homologous DNA molecules in recombination and DNA repair leads to the formation of crossover intermediates known as Holliday junctions. Their enzymatic processing by the RuvABC system in bacteria involves the formation of a complex between RuvA and the Holliday junction. To study the solution structure of this complex, contrast variation by neutron scattering was applied to Mycobacterium leprae RuvA (MleRuvA), a synthetic analogue of a Holliday junction with 16 base-pairs in each arm, and their stable complex. Unbound MleRuvA was octameric in solution, and formed an octameric complex with the DNA junction. The radii of gyration at infinite contrast were determined to be 3.65 nm, 2.74 nm and 4.15 nm for MleRuvA, DNA junction and their complex, respectively, showing that the complex was structurally more extended than MleRuvA. No difference was observed in the presence or absence of Mg2+. The large difference in RG values for the free and complexed protein in 65% 2H2O, where the DNA component is "invisible", showed that a substantial structural change had occurred in complexed MleRuvA. The slopes of the Stuhrmann plots for MleRuvA and the complex were 19 and 15 or less (x10(-5)), respectively, indicating that DNA passed through the centre of the complex. Automated constrained molecular modelling based on the Escherichia coli RuvA crystal structure demonstrated that the scattering curve of octameric MleRuvA in 65% and 100% 2H2O is explained by a face-to-face association of two MleRuvA tetramers stabilised by salt-bridges. The corresponding modelling of the complex in 65% 2H2O showed that the two tetramers are separated by a void space of about 1-2 nm, which can accommodate the width of B-form DNA. Minor conformational changes between unbound and complexed MleRuvA may occur. These observations show that RuvA plays a more complex role in homologous recombination than previously thought.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Biol

Publication Date





385 - 400


Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Proteins, Computer Simulation, DNA, DNA Helicases, DNA-Binding Proteins, Escherichia coli Proteins, Models, Molecular, Molecular Conformation, Molecular Sequence Data, Mycobacterium leprae, Neutrons, Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Protein Binding, Recombination, Genetic, Scattering, Radiation, Solutions