ICP8, the herpes simplex virus type-1 encoded single-strand DNA (ssDNA)-binding protein, promotes the assimilation of a single-stranded DNA molecule into a homologous duplex plasmid resulting in the formation of a displacement loop. Here we examine the mechanism of this process. In contrast to the RecA-type recombinases that catalyze strand invasion via an active search for homology, ICP8 acts by a salt-dependent strand annealing mechanism. The active species in this reaction is a ssDNA:ICP8 nucleoprotein filament. There appears to be no requirement for ICP8 to interact with the acceptor DNA. At higher concentrations, ICP8 promotes the reverse reaction, presumably owing to its helix destabilizing activity. ICP8-mediated strand assimilation imparts single-stranded character onto the acceptor DNA, consistent with the formation of a displacement loop. These data suggest that the recombination activity of ICP8 is similar to the mechanism of eukaryotic Rad52.
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