The site-specific cleavage of synthetic Holliday junction analogs and related branched DNA structures by bacteriophage T7 endonuclease I.

P. Dickie, G. McFadden, A. R. Morgan

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64 Scopus citations


Various branched DNA structures were created from synthetic, partly complementary oligonucleotides combined under annealing conditions. Appropriate mixtures of oligonucleotides generated three specific branched duplex DNA molecules: (i) a Holliday junction analog having a fixed (immobile) crossover bounded by four duplex DNA branches, (ii) a similar Holliday junction analog which is capable of limited branch migration and, (iii) a Y-junction, with three duplex branches and fixed branch point. Each of these novel structures was specifically cleaved by bacteriophage T7 gene 3 product, endonuclease I. The cleavage reaction "resolved" the two Holliday structure analogs into pairs of duplex DNA products half the size of the original molecules. The point of cleavage in the fixed-junction molecules was predominantly one nucleotide removed to the 5' side of the expected crossover position. Multiple cleavage positions were mapped on the Holliday junction with the mobile, or variable, branch point, to sites consistent with the unrestricted movement of the phosphodiester crossover within the region of limited dyad symmetry which characterizes this molecule. Based on the cleavage pattern observed with this latter substrate, the enzyme displayed a modest degree of sequence specificity, preferring a pyrimidine on the 3' side of the cleavage site. Branched molecules that were partial duplexes (lower order complexes which possessed single-stranded as well as duplex DNA branches) were also substrates for the enzyme. In these molecules, the cleaved phosphodiester bonds were in duplex regions only and predominantly one nucleotide to the 5' side of the branch point. The phosphodiester positions 5' of the branch point in single-stranded arms were not cleaved. Under identical reaction conditions, individually treated oligonucleotides were completely refractory. Thus, cleavage by T7 endonuclease I displays great structural specificity with an efficiency that can vary slightly according to the DNA sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14826-14836
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of biological chemistry
Issue number30
StatePublished - Oct 25 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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