Small inverted repeats (small palindromes) on plasmids have been shown to mediate a recombinational rearrangement event in Escherichia coli leading to the formation of inverted dimers (giant palindromes). This recombinational rearrangement event is efficient and independent of RecA and RecBCD. In this report, we propose a cruciform-dumbbell model to explain the inverted dimer formation mediated by inverted repeats. In this model, the inverted repeats promote the formation of a DNA cruciform which is processed by an endonuclease into a linear DNA with two hairpin loops at its ends. Upon DNA replication, this linear dumbbell-like DNA is then converted to the inverted dimer. In support of this model, linear dumbbell DNA molecules with unidirectional origin of DNA replication (ColE1 ori have been constructed and shown to transform E.coli efficiently resulting in the formation of the inverted dimer. The ability of linear dumbbell DNA to transform E.coli suggests that the terminal loops may be important in bypassing the requirement of DNA supercoiling for initiation of replication of the ColE1 ori.
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