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Efficient reversal of phiC31 integrase recombination in mammalian cells

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Abstract

Over the past decade, the integrase enzyme from phage phiC31 has proven to be a useful genome engineering tool in a wide variety of species, including mammalian cells. The enzyme efficiently mediates recombination between two distinct sequences, attP and attB, producing recombinant product sites, attL and attR. The reaction proceeds exclusively in a unidirectional manner, because integrase is unable to synapse attL and attR. To date, use of phiC31 integrase has been limited to attP × attB recombination. The factor needed for the reverse reaction – the excisionase or recombination directionality factor (RDF) – was identified recently and shown to function in vitro and in bacterial cells. To determine whether the phiC31 RDF could also function in mammalian cells, we cloned and tested several vectors that permit assessment of phiC31 RDF activity in mammalian environments. In the human and mouse cell lines tested (HeLa, HEK293, and NIH3T3), we observed robust RDF activity, using plasmid and/or genomic assays. This work is the first to demonstrate attLattR serine integrase activity in mammalian cells and validates phiC31 RDF as a new tool that will enable future studies to take advantage of phiC31 integrase recombination in the forward or reverse direction.

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