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DNA helicases are motor proteins that couple the chemical energy of nucleoside triphosphate hydrolysis to the mechanical functions required for DNA unwinding. Studies of several helicases have identified strand-separating "pin" structures that are positioned to intercept incoming dsDNA and promote strand separation during helicase translocation. However, pin structures vary among helicases and it remains unclear whether they confer a conserved unwinding mechanism. Here, we tested the biochemical and cellular roles of a putative pin element within the Escherichia coli PriA DNA helicase. PriA orchestrates replication restart in bacteria by unwinding the lagging-strand arm of abandoned DNA replication forks and reloading the replicative helicase with the help of protein partners that combine with PriA to form what is referred to as a primosome complex. Using in vitro protein-DNA cross-linking, we localized the putative pin (a β-hairpin within a zinc-binding domain in PriA) near the ssDNA-dsDNA junction of the lagging strand in a PriA-DNA replication fork complex. Removal of residues at the tip of the β-hairpin eliminated PriA DNA unwinding, interaction with the primosome protein PriB, and cellular function. We isolated a spontaneous intragenic suppressor mutant of the priA β-hairpin deletion mutant in which 22 codons around the deletion site were duplicated. This suppressor variant and an Ala-substituted β-hairpin PriA variant displayed wildtype levels of DNA unwinding and PriB binding in vitro These results suggest essential but sequence nonspecific roles for the PriA pin element and coupling of PriA DNA unwinding to its interaction with PriB. © 2019 Windgassen et al.


Tricia A Windgassen, Maxime Leroux, Steven J Sandler, James L Keck. Function of a strand-separation pin element in the PriA DNA replication restart helicase. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2019 Feb 22;294(8):2801-2814

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PMID: 30593500

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