Background: The ninR region of phage lambda contains two recombination genes, orf (ninB) and rap (ninG), that were previously shown to have roles when the RecF and RecBCD recombination pathways of E. coli, respectively, operate on phage lambda.
Results: When lambda DNA replication is blocked, recombination is focused at the termini of the virion chromosome. Deletion of the ninR region of lambda decreases the sharpness of the focusing without diminishing the overall rate of recombination. The phenotype is accounted for in large part by the deletion of rap and of orf. Mutation of the recJ gene of the host partially suppresses the Rap- phenotype.
Conclusion: ninR functions Orf and Rap participate in Red recombination, the primary pathway operating when wild-type lambda grows lytically in rec+ cells. The ability of recJ mutation to suppress the Rap- phenotype indicates that RecJ exonuclease can participate in Red-mediated recombination, at least in the absence of Rap function. A model is presented for Red-mediated RecA-dependent recombination that includes these newly identified participants.