DNA Recombination: Holliday junctions dynamics and branch migration

Alexander Y. Lushnikov, Alexey Bogdanov, Yuri L. Lyubchenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Holliday junctions are critical intermediates for homologous, site-specific recombination, DNA repair, and replication. A wealth of structural information is available for immobile four-way junctions, but the controversy on the mechanism of branch migration of Holliday junctions remains unsolved. Two models for the mechanism of branch migration were suggested. According to the early model of Alberts-Meselson-Sigal (Sigal, N., and Alberts, B. (1972) J. Mol. Biol. 71, 789-793 and Meselson, M. (1972) J. Mol. Biol. 71, 795-798), exchanging DNA strands around the junction remain parallel during branch migration. Kinetic studies of branch migration (Panyutin, I. G., and Hsieh, P. (1994) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 91, 2021-2025) suggest an alternative model in which the junction adopts an extended conformation. We tested these models using a Holliday junction undergoing branch migration and time-lapse atomic force microscopy, an imaging technique capable of imaging DNA dynamics. The single molecule atomic force microscopy experiments performed in the presence and in the absence of divalent cations show that mobile Holliday junctions adopt an unfolded conformation during branch migration that is retained despite a broad range of motion in the arms of the junction. This conformation of the junction remains unchanged until strand separation. The data obtained support the model for branch migration having the extended conformation of the Holliday junction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43130-43134
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number44
StatePublished - Oct 31 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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