Detection of novel recombinases in bacteriophage genomes unveils Rad52, Rad51 and Gp2.5 remote homologs

Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Jul;38(12):3952-62. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq096. Epub 2010 Mar 1.


Homologous recombination is a key in contributing to bacteriophages genome repair, circularization and replication. No less than six kinds of recombinase genes have been reported so far in bacteriophage genomes, two (UvsX and Gp2.5) from virulent, and four (Sak, Red beta, Erf and Sak4) from temperate phages. Using profile-profile comparisons, structure-based modelling and gene-context analyses, we provide new views on the global landscape of recombinases in 465 bacteriophages. We show that Sak, Red beta and Erf belong to a common large superfamily adopting a shortcut Rad52-like fold. Remote homologs of Sak4 are predicted to adopt a shortcut Rad51/RecA fold and are discovered widespread among phage genomes. Unexpectedly, within temperate phages, gene-context analyses also pinpointed the presence of distant Gp2.5 homologs, believed to be restricted to virulent phages. All in all, three major superfamilies of phage recombinases emerged either related to Rad52-like, Rad51-like or Gp2.5-like proteins. For two newly detected recombinases belonging to the Sak4 and Gp2.5 families, we provide experimental evidence of their recombination activity in vivo. Temperate versus virulent lifestyle together with the importance of genome mosaicism is discussed in the light of these novel recombinases. Screening for these recombinases in genomes can be performed at

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacteriophages / enzymology*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genome, Viral
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Rad51 Recombinase / chemistry
  • Rad52 DNA Repair and Recombination Protein / chemistry
  • Recombinases / chemistry*
  • Recombinases / classification
  • Recombinases / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Proteins / classification
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • Rad52 DNA Repair and Recombination Protein
  • Recombinases
  • Viral Proteins
  • Rad51 Recombinase