The cell pole: The site of cross talk between the DNA uptake and genetic recombination machinery

Dawit Kidane, Silvia Ayora, Joann B. Sweasy, Peter L. Graumann, Juan C. Alonso

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Natural transformation is a programmed mechanism characterized by binding of free double-stranded (ds) DNA from the environment to the cell pole in rod-shaped bacteria. In Bacillus subtilis some competence proteins, which process the dsDNA and translocate single-stranded (ss) DNA into the cytosol, recruit a set of recombination proteins mainly to one of the cell poles. A subset of single-stranded binding proteins, working as "guardians", protects ssDNA from degradation and limit the RecA recombinase loading. Then, the "mediators" overcome the inhibitory role of guardians, and recruit RecA onto ssDNA. A RecA·ssDNA filament searches for homology on the chromosome and, in a process that is controlled by "modulators", catalyzes strand invasion with the generation of a displacement loop (D-loop). A D-loop resolvase or "resolver" cleaves this intermediate, limited DNA replication restores missing information and a DNA ligase seals the DNA ends. However, if any step fails, the "rescuers" will repair the broken end to rescue chromosomal transformation. If the ssDNA does not share homology with resident DNA, but it contains information for autonomous replication, guardian and mediator proteins catalyze plasmid establishment after inhibition of RecA. DNA replication and ligation reconstitute the molecule (plasmid transformation). In this review, the interacting network that leads to a cross talk between proteins of the uptake and genetic recombination machinery will be placed into prospective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-555
Number of pages25
JournalCritical reviews in biochemistry and molecular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromosomal transformation
  • Homologous recombination
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Natural competence
  • Plasmid transformation
  • Viral transfection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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