Cruciform extrusion in plasmids bearing the replicative intermediate configuration of a poxvirus telomere

Peter Dickie, A. Richard Morgan, Grant McFadden

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25 Scopus citations


The transition from lineform DNA to cruciform DNA (cruciformation) within the cloned telomere sequences of the Leporipoxvirus Shope fibroma virus (SFV) has been studied. The viral telomere sequences have been cloned in recombination-deficient Escherichia coli as a 322 base-pair, imperfect palindromic insert in pUC13. The inverted repeat configuration is equivalent to the arrangement of the telomere structures observed within viral DNA replicative intermediates. A major cruciform structure in the purified recombinant plasmid has been identified and mapped using, as probes, the enzymes AflII, nuclease S1 and bacteriophage T7 endonuclease I. It was extruded from the central axis of the cloned viral inverted repeat and, by unrestricted branch migration, attained a size commensurate with the superhelical density of the plasmid molecule at native superhelical densities. This major cruciform extrusion event was the only detectable duplex DNA perturbation, induced by negative superhelical torsion, in the insert viral sequences. No significant steady-state pool of extruded cruciform was identified in E. coli. However, the identification of a major deletion variant generated even in the recombination-deficient E. coli strain DB1256 (recA recBC sbcB) suggested that the cruciform may be extruded transiently in vivo. The lineform to cruciform transition has been further characterized in vitro using two-dimensional agarose gel electrophoresis. The transition was marked by a high energy of formation (ΔGf = 44 kcal/mol), and an apparently low activation energy that enabled facile transitions at physiological temperatures provided there was sufficient torsional energy. By comparing cruciformation in a series of related bidirectional central axis deletions of the telomeric insert, it has been concluded that the presence of extrahelical bases in the terminal hairpin structures contributes substantially to the high ΔGf value. Also, viral sequences flanking the extruded cruciform were shown to influence the measured ΔGf value. Several general features of poxvirus telomere structure that would be expected to influence the facility of cruciform extrusion are discussed along with the implications of the observed cruciform transition event on the replicative process of poxviruses in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-558
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 5 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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