Gin-mediated site-specific recombination promotes inversion of the G segment of phage Mu. The crossover takes place between two 34 bp-long inverted repeat sequences flanking the G segment. We have characterized the inversion site, the target for the site-specific recombination mechanism. An artificial invertible segment was constructed which consists of parts of the invertible segments of Mu and phage P1, which in this respect are largely homologous. Upon inversion of this hybrid segment the crossover site could be located, by DNA sequencing, in the ACCT sequence of the centre of symmetry in the inverted repeat in Mu. The hybrid Mu-P1 segment inverts at a lower frequency than its parental invertible segments probably because of the mismatches between the inverted repeats of Mu and P1. This suggests that base pairing between the inverted repeats is an intermediate step in recombination. Plasmids with subcloned G segments lacking the adjacent β region of Mu or the corresponding region in P7, a relative of P1, are deficient in inversion. By analysis through site-specific mutagenesis of Mu DNA, an enhancer element with multiple recognition sites was identified which is necessary for efficient inversion. This component of the inversion site was located in a 170 bp segment within the Mu β region, 30 bp to the right of the inverted repeat sequence, but can be separated from the crossover site by a 1200 bp insertion without losing its effect.


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