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Escherichia coli, DNA repair, Ultraviolet radiation


Transformation of Escherichia coli with purified plasmids containing DNA damage is frequently used as a tool to characterize repair pathways that operate on chromosomes. In this study, we used an assay that allowed us to quantify plasmid survival and to compare how efficiently various repair pathways operate on plasmid DNA introduced into cells relative to their efficiency on chromosomal DNA. We observed distinct differences between the mechanisms operating on the transforming plasmid DNA and the chromosome. An average of one UV-induced lesion was sufficient to inactivate ColE1-based plasmids introduced into nucleotide excision repair mutants, suggesting an essential role for repair on newly introduced plasmid DNA. By contrast, the absence of RecA, RecF, RecBC, RecG, or RuvAB had a minimal effect on the survival of the transforming plasmid DNA containing UV-induced damage. Neither the presence of an endogenous homologous plasmid nor the induction of the SOS response enhanced the survival of transforming plasmids. Using two-dimensional agarose-gel analysis, both replication- and RecA-dependent structures that were observed on established, endogenous plasmids following UV-irradiation, failed to form on UV-irradiated plasmids introduced into E. coli. We interpret these observations to suggest that the lack of RecA-mediated survival is likely to be due to inefficient replication that occurs when plasmids are initially introduced into cells, rather than to the plasmid’s size, the absence of homologous sequences, or levels of recA expression.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Plasmid. Changes resulting from the publishing process. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published at:

© 2012, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International



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