The RAD51 gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is required for genetic recombination and DNA double-strand break repair. Here it is demonstrated that RAD51 protein pairs circular viral single-stranded DNA from φX 174 or M13 with its respective homologous linear double-stranded form. The product of synapsis between these DNA partners is further processed by RAD51 to yield nicked circular duplex DNA, which indicates that RAD51 can catalyze strand exchange. The pairing and strand exchange reaction requires adenosine triphosphate, a result consistent with the presence of a DNA-dependent adenosine triphosphatase activity in RAD51 protein. Thus, RAD51 is a eukaryotic recombination protein that can catalyze the strand exchange reaction.
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