Genetic recombination in Escherichia coli is stimulated by a RecBCD enzyme-mediated event at DNA sequences known as Chi (chi) sites (5'-GCTGGTGG-3'). Previously, it was shown that chi acts to regulate the nuclease activity of RecBCD; here, we demonstrate that, under appropriate conditions, interaction with chi sites can also result in an inactivation of helicase activity of RecBCD. The unwinding of double-stranded DNA-containing chi sites, under conditions of limiting Mg2+ ion, results in the reversible inactivation of RecBCD; addition of excess Mg2+ to the reaction reactivates all activities of RecBCD. Inactivation is the consequence of a chi-dependent modification of RecBCD that appears to result from an inability of the chi-modified RecBCD to reinitiate unwinding of intact DNA molecules. This characteristic behavior of RecBCD and chi is displayed by the reconstituted RecBC (i.e., without the RecD subunit), except that it is not dependent on chi interaction. This biochemical similarity between the chi-modified RecBCD and RecBC enzymes implies that recognition of chi results in a dissociation or functional inactivation of RecD subunit and lends support to the hypothesis that interaction with chi results in ejection of the RecD subunit
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