Homologous recombination is a fundamental process in all living organisms that allows the faithful repair of DNA double strand breaks, through the exchange of DNA strands between homologous regions of the genome. Results of three decades of investigation and recent fruitful observations have unveiled key elements of the reaction mechanism, which proceeds along nucleofilaments of recombinase proteins of the RecA family. Yet, one essential aspect of homologous recombination has largely been overlooked when deciphering the mechanism: while ATP is hydrolyzed in large quantity during the process, how exactly hydrolysis influences the DNA strand exchange reaction at the structural level remains to be elucidated. In this study, we build on a previous geometrical approach that studied the RecA filament variability without bound DNA to examine the putative implication of ATP hydrolysis on the structure, position, and interactions of up to three DNA strands within the RecA nucleofilament. Simulation results on modeled intermediates in the ATP cycle bring important clues about how local distortions in the DNA strand geometries resulting from ATP hydrolysis can aid sequence recognition by promoting local melting of already formed DNA heteroduplex and transient reverse strand exchange in a weaving type of mechanism.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.