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Interplasmidic recombination following irradiation of the radioresistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans.

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Deinococcus radiodurans R1 and other members of the eubacterial family Deinococcaceae are extremely resistant to ionizing radiation and many other agents that damage DNA. For example, after irradiation, D. radiodurans can repair > 100 DNA double-strand breaks per chromosome without lethality or mutagenesis, while most other organisms can survive no more than 2 or 3 double-strand breaks. The unusual resistance of D. radiodurans is recA dependent, but the repair pathway(s) is not understood. Recently, we described how a plasmid present in D. radiodurans (plasmid copy number, approximately 6 per cell; chromosome copy number, approximately 4 per cell) during high-dose irradiation undergoes extreme damage like the chromosome and is retained by the cell without selection and fully repaired with the same efficiency as the chromosome. In the current work, we have investigated the repair of two similar plasmids within the same cell. These two plasmids were designed to provide both restriction fragment polymorphisms and a drug selection indicator of recombination. This study presents a novel system of analysis of in vivo damage and recombinational repair, exploiting the unique ability of D. radiodurans to survive extraordinarily high levels of DNA damage. We report that homologous recombination among plasmids following irradiation is extensive. For example, 2% of Tcs plasmids become Tcr as a result of productive recombination within a 929-bp region of the plasmids after repair. Our results suggest that each plasmid may participate in as many as 6.7 recombinational events during repair, a value that extrapolates to > 700 events per chromosome undergoing repair simultaneously. These results indicate that the study of plasmid recombination within D. radiodurans may serve as an accurate model system for simultaneously occurring repair in the chromosome.

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