Topoisomerase IV, not gyrase, decatenates products of site-specific recombination in Escherichia coli

E. Lynn Zechiedrich, Arkady B. Khodursky, Nicholas R. Cozzarelli

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DNA replication and recombination generate intertwined DNA intermediates that must be decatenated for chromosome segregation to occur. We showed recently that topoisomerase IV (topo IV) is the only important decatenase of DNA replication intermediates in bacteria. Earlier results, however, indicated that DNA gyrase has the primary role in unlinking the catenated products of site-specific recombination. To address this discordance, we constructed a set of isogenic strains that enabled us to inhibit selectively with the quinolone norfloxacin topo IV, gyrase, both enzymes, or neither enzyme in vivo. We obtained identical results for the decatenation of the products of two different site-specific recombination enzymes, phage λ integrase and transposon Tn3 resolvase. Norfloxacin blocked decatenation in wild-type strains, but had no effect in strains with drag-resistance mutations in both gyrase and topo IV. When topo IV alone was inhibited, decatenation was almost completely blocked. If gyrase alone were inhibited, most of the catenanes were unlinked. We showed that topo IV is the primary decatenase in vivo and that this function is dependent on the level of DNA supercoiling. We conclude that the role of gyrase in decatenation is to introduce negative supercoils into DNA, which makes better substrates for topo IV. We also discovered that topo IV has an unexpectedly strong DNA relaxation activity that, together with gyrase and topo I, is able to set the supercoiling levels in Escherichia coli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2580-2592
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 1997


  • DNA supercoiling
  • Quinolones
  • Tn3 resolvase
  • Topoisomerase I
  • λ integrase


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