Plasmid DNA was used to study γ-radiation-induced recombination and mutagenesis in Escherichia coli host cells. Plasmid pBRP1, a derivative of pBR322 containing the lac operon of E. coli, was irradiated with60 Co γ rays prior to transformation into E. coli strains of different recA and lac genotypes. Plasmid-chromosome recombination was assayed in lacY1 host cells, whereas plasmid mutagenesis was assayed in Δlac host cells lacking chromosomal sequences homologous to the plasmid. Both recombinant and mutant plasmids were identified by the phenotypic changes in lactose utilization, and confirmed by restriction analysis of isolated plasmids. Plasmid-chromosome recombination was induced to high levels (about 20% of survivors at 700 Gy) and was dependent on the host recA gene. Plasmid mutagenesis occurred at lower levels (about 1.5% of survivors at 600 Gy) and was relatively independent of the recA gene. Plasmid survival was unaffected by the presence or absence of host recA mutations or the potential for plasmid-chromosome recombination.

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