RecA requires two molecules of Mg2+ ions for its optimal strand exchange activity in vitro

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Mar 16;46(5):2548-2559. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky048.


Mg2+ ion stimulates the DNA strand exchange reaction catalyzed by RecA, a key step in homologous recombination. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the role of Mg2+ and the strand exchange reaction itself, we investigated the interaction of RecA with Mg2+ and sought to determine which step of the reaction is affected. Thermal stability, intrinsic fluorescence, and native mass spectrometric analyses of RecA revealed that RecA binds at least two Mg2+ ions with KD ≈ 2 mM and 5 mM. Deletion of the C-terminal acidic tail of RecA made its thermal stability and fluorescence characteristics insensitive to Mg2+ and similar to those of full-length RecA in the presence of saturating Mg2+. These observations, together with the results of a molecular dynamics simulation, support the idea that the acidic tail hampers the strand exchange reaction by interacting with other parts of RecA, and that binding of Mg2+ to the tail prevents these interactions and releases RecA from inhibition. We observed that binding of the first Mg2+ stimulated joint molecule formation, whereas binding of the second stimulated progression of the reaction. Thus, RecA is actively involved in the strand exchange step as well as bringing the two DNAs close to each other.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cations, Divalent
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Stability
  • Rec A Recombinases / chemistry
  • Rec A Recombinases / metabolism*
  • Sequence Deletion


  • Cations, Divalent
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • recA protein, E coli
  • DNA
  • Rec A Recombinases
  • Magnesium