Eukaryotic DNA topoisomerase I introduces transient single-stranded breaks on double-stranded DNA and spontaneously breaks down single-stranded DNA. The cleavage sites on both single and double-stranded SV40 DNA have been determined by DNA sequencing. Consistent with other reports, the eukaryotic enzymes, in contrast to prokaryotic type I topoisomerases, links to the 3'-end of the cleaved DNA and generates a free 5'-hydroxyl end on the other half of the broken DNA strand. Both human and calf enzymes cleave SV40 DNA at identical and specific sites. From 827 nucleotides sequenced, 68 cleavage sites were mapped. The majority of the cleavage sites were present on both double and single-stranded DNA at exactly the sane nucleotide positions, suggesting that the DNA sequence is essential for enzyme recognition. By analyzing all the cleavage sequences, certain nucleotides are found to be less favored at the cleavage sites. There is a high probability to exclude G from positions -4, -2, -1 and +1, T from position -3, and A from position -1. These five positions(-4 to +1 oriented in the 5' to 3' direction) around the cleavage sites must interact intimately with topo I and thus are essential for enzyme recognition. One topo I cleavage site which shows an atypical cleavage sequence maps in the middle of a palindromic sequence near the origin of SV40 DNA replication. It occurs only on single-stranded SV40 DNA, suggesting that the DNA hairpin can alter the cleavage specificity. The strongest cleavage site maps near the origin of SV40 DNA replication at nucleotide 31-32 and has a pentanucleotide sequence of 5'-TGACT-3'.
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