Research Articles

Left-handed DNA in vivo

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Science  06 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4828, pp. 773-777
DOI: 10.1126/science.3313728


Left-handed DNA is shown to exist and elicit a biological response in Escherichia coli. A plasmid encoding the gene for a temperature-sensitive Eco RI methylase (MEco RI) was cotransformed with different plasmids containing inserts that had varying capacities to form left-handed helices or cruciforms with a target Eco RI site in the center or at the ends of the inserts. Inhibition of methylation in vivo was found for the stable inserts with the longest left-handed (presumably Z) helices. In vitro methylation with the purified MEco RI agreed with the results in vivo. Supercoil-induced changes in the structure of the primary helix in vitro provided confirmation that left-handed helices were responsible for this behavior. The presence in vivo of left-handed inserts elicits specific deletions and plasmid incompatibilities in certain instances.