Genetic recombination involves either the homologous exchange of nearly identical chromosome regions or the direct alignment, annealing and ligation of processed DNA ends. These mechanisms are involved in repairing potentially lethal or mutagenic DNA damage and generating genetic diversity within the meiotic cell population and antibody repertoire. We report here the identification of a mouse gene, termed mExo1 for mouse exonuclease 1, which encodes a ~92 kDa protein that shares homology to proteins of the RAD2 nuclease family, most notably human 5' to 3' exonuclease Hex1/hExo1, yeast exonuclease 1 (Exo1) proteins and Drosophila melanogaster Tosca. The mExo1 gene maps to distal chromosome 1, consistent with the recent mapping of the orthologous HEX1/hEXO1 gene to chromosome 1q42-q43. mExo1 is expressed prominently in testis, an area of active homologous recombination, and spleen, a prominent lymphoid tissue. An increased level of mExo1 mRNA was observed during a stage of testis development where cells that are actively involved in meiotic recombination arise first and represent a significant proportion of the germ cell population. Comparative evaluation of the expression patterns of the human and mouse genes, combined with previous biochemical and yeast genetic studies, indicate that the Exo1-like proteins are important contributors to chromosome processing during mammalian DNA repair and recombination.
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