We compared the biochemical properties of the RecA441 protein to those of the wild-type RecA protein in an effort to account for the constitutive protease activity observed in recA441 strains. The two RecA proteins have similar properties in the absence of single-stranded DNA binding protein (SSB protein), and the differences that do exist shed little light on the temperature-inducible phenotype observed in recA441 strains. In contrast, several biochemical differences are apparent when the two proteins are compared in the presence of SSB protein, and these are conducive to a hypothesis that explains the temperature-sensitive behavior observed in these strains. We find that both the single-stranded DNA(ssDNA)-dependent ATPase and LexA-protease activities of RecA441 protein are more resistant to inhibition by SSB protein than are the activities of the wild-type protein. Additionally, the RecA441 protein is more capable of using ssDNA that has been precoated with SSB protein as a substrate for ATPase and protease activities, implying that RecA441 protein is more proficient at displacing SSB protein from ssDNA. The enhanced SSB protein displacement ability of the RecA441 protein is dependent on elevated temperature. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the RecA441 protein competes more efficiently with SSB protein for limited ssDNA sites and can be activated to cleave repressors at elevated temperature by displacing SSB protein from the limited ssDNA that occurs naturally in Escherichia coli. Neither the ssDNA binding characteristics of the RecA441 protein nor the rate at which it transfers from one DNA molecule to another provides an explanation for its enhanced activities, leading us to conclude that kinetics of RecA441 protein association with DNA may be responsible for the properties of the RecA441 protein.
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