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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Heterocyst-specific excision of the Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 hupL element requires xisC.

In nitrogen-limiting conditions, approximately 10% of the vegetative cells in filaments of the cyanobacterium Anabaena (Nostoc) sp. strain PCC 7120 differentiate into nitrogen-fixing heterocysts. During the late stages of heterocyst differentiation, three DNA elements, each embedded within an open reading frame, are programmed to excise from the chromosome by site-specific recombination. The DNA elements are named after the genes that they interrupt: nifD, fdxN, and hupL. The nifD and fdxN elements each contain a gene, xisA or xisF, respectively, that encodes the site-specific recombinase required for programmed excision of the element. Here, we show that the xisC gene (alr0677), which is present at one end of the 9,435-bp hupL element, is required for excision of the hupL element. A strain in which the xisC gene was inactivated showed no detectable excision of the hupL element. hupL encodes the large subunit of uptake hydrogenase. The xisC mutant forms heterocysts and grows diazotrophically, but unlike the wild type, it evolved hydrogen gas under nitrogen-fixing conditions. Overexpression of xisC from a plasmid in a wild-type background caused a low level of hupL rearrangement even in nitrogen-replete conditions. Expression of xisC in Escherichia coli was sufficient to produce rearrangement of an artificial substrate plasmid bearing the hupL element recombination sites. Sequence analysis indicated that XisC is a divergent member of the phage integrase family of recombinases. Site-directed mutagenesis of xisC showed that the XisC recombinase has functional similarity to the phage integrase family.[1]


  1. Heterocyst-specific excision of the Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120 hupL element requires xisC. Carrasco, C.D., Holliday, S.D., Hansel, A., Lindblad, P., Golden, J.W. J. Bacteriol. (2005) [Pubmed]
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