RecQ helicase and RecJ nuclease provide complementary functions to resect DNA for homologous recombination

Katsumi Morimatsu, Stephen C. Kowalczykowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Recombinational DNA repair by the RecF pathway of Escherichia coli requires the coordinated activities of RecA, RecFOR, RecQ, RecJ, and single-strand DNA binding (SSB) proteins. These proteins facilitate formation of homologously paired joint molecules between linear double-stranded (dsDNA) and supercoiled DNA. Repair starts with resection of the broken dsDNA by RecQ, a 3'→5' helicase, RecJ, a 5'&rarr3' exonuclease, and SSB protein. The ends of a dsDNA break can be blunt-ended, or they may possess either 5'-or 3'-single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) overhangs of undefined length. Here we show that RecJ nuclease alone can initiate nucleolytic resection of DNA with 5'-ssDNA overhangs, and that RecQ helicase can initiate resection of DNA with blunt-ends or 3'-ssDNA overhangs by DNA unwinding.We establish that in addition to its wellknown ssDNA exonuclease activity, RecJ can display dsDNA exonuclease activity, degrading 100-200 nucleotides of the strand terminating with a 5'-ssDNA overhang. The dsDNA product, with a 3'-ssDNA overhang, is an optimal substrate for RecQ, which unwinds this intermediate to reveal the complementary DNA strand with a 5'-end that is degraded iteratively by RecJ. On the other hand, RecJ cannot resect duplex DNA that is either blunt-ended or terminated with 3'-ssDNA; however, such DNA is unwound by RecQ to create ssDNA for RecJ exonuclease. RecJ requires interaction with SSB for exonucleolytic degradation of ssDNA but not dsDNA. Thus, complementary action by RecJ and RecQ permits initiation of recombinational repair from all dsDNA ends: 5'-overhangs, blunt, or 3'-overhangs. Such helicase-nuclease coordination is a common mechanism underlying resection in all organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E5133-E5142
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 19 2014


  • Dna break |
  • Dna repair |
  • Helicase |
  • Homologous recombination |
  • Nuclease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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