Chow, K-H. and Courcelle, J. RecBCD and RecJ/RecQ Initiate DNA Degradation on Distinct Substrates in UV-Irradiated Escherichia coli. Radiat. Res. 168, 499–506 (2007).
After UV irradiation, recA mutants fail to recover replication, and a dramatic and nearly complete degradation of the genomic DNA occurs. Although the RecBCD helicase/nuclease complex is known to mediate this catastrophic DNA degradation, it is not known how or where this degradation is initiated. Previous studies have speculated that RecBCD targets and initiates degradation from the nascent DNA at replication forks arrested by DNA damage. To test this question, we examined which enzymes were responsible for the degradation of genomic DNA and the nascent DNA in UV-irradiated recA cells. We show here that, although RecBCD degrades the genomic DNA after UV irradiation, it does not target the nascent DNA at arrested replication forks. Instead, we observed that the nascent DNA at arrested replication forks in recA cultures is degraded by RecJ/RecQ, similar to what occurs in wild-type cultures. These findings indicate that the genomic DNA degradation and nascent DNA degradation in UV-irradiated recA mutants are mediated separately through RecBCD and RecJ/RecQ, respectively. In addition, they demonstrate that RecBCD initiates degradation at a site(s) other than the arrested replication fork directly.