A protein factor which reduces the negative supercoiling requirement in the Mu DNA strand transfer reaction is Escherichia coli integration host factor.
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We have examined the supercoiling requirement for the in vitro Mu DNA strand transfer reaction and found that optimal efficiency requires a high level (sigma = -0.06) of donor plasmid superhelicity. At in vivo levels of supercoiling (sigma = -0.025) the reaction does not occur. Using an unreactive donor plasmid with a near physiological level of supercoiling, we identified an Escherichia coli protein factor which has the novel property of reducing the donor plasmid supercoiling requirement for the in vitro Mu DNA strand transfer reaction by 40%. This protein, which we named supercoiling relief factor was purified to near homogeneity and found to be identical to integration host factor (IHF), a protein known to induce site specific bends in DNA. The dramatic reduction in the supercoiling requirement was promoted by about 1.5 IHF dimers/donor substrate molecule. At these low levels of IHF, the HU requirement for the reaction was also reduced; a synergistic effect of the two proteins resulted in a greater than 10-fold stimulation of the reaction under appropriate conditions. Furthermore, at high concentrations of IHF, HU could be completely eliminated from the reaction.
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