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1.  Evaluation of DNA Primase DnaG as a Potential Target for Antibiotics 
Mycobacteria contain genes for several DNA-dependent RNA primases, including dnaG, which encodes an essential replication enzyme that has been proposed as a target for antituberculosis compounds. An in silico analysis revealed that mycobacteria also possess archaeo-eukaryotic superfamily primases (AEPs) of unknown function. Using a homologous recombination system, we obtained direct evidence that wild-type dnaG cannot be deleted from the chromosome of Mycobacterium smegmatis without disrupting viability, even in backgrounds in which mycobacterial AEPs are overexpressed. In contrast, single-deletion AEP mutants or mutants defective for all four identified M. smegmatis AEP genes did not exhibit growth defects under standard laboratory conditions. Deletion of native dnaG in M. smegmatis was tolerated only after the integration of an extra intact copy of the M. smegmatis or Mycobacterium tuberculosis dnaG gene, under the control of chemically inducible promoters, into the attB site of the chromosome. M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis DnaG proteins were overproduced and purified, and their primase activities were confirmed using radioactive RNA synthesis assays. The enzymes appeared to be sensitive to known inhibitors (suramin and doxorubicin) of DnaG. Notably, M. smegmatis bacilli appeared to be sensitive to doxorubicin and resistant to suramin. The growth and survival of conditional mutant mycobacterial strains in which DnaG was significantly depleted were only slightly affected under standard laboratory conditions. Thus, although DnaG is essential for mycobacterial viability, only low levels of protein are required for growth. This suggests that very efficient inhibition of enzyme activity would be required for mycobacterial DnaG to be useful as an antibiotic target.
PMCID: PMC3957862  PMID: 24379196
2.  PPL2 Translesion Polymerase Is Essential for the Completion of Chromosomal DNA Replication in the African Trypanosome 
Molecular Cell  2013;52(4):554-565.
Faithful copying of the genome is essential for life. In eukaryotes, a single archaeo-eukaryotic primase (AEP), DNA primase, is required for the initiation and progression of DNA replication. Here we have identified additional eukaryotic AEP-like proteins with DNA-dependent primase and/or polymerase activity. Uniquely, the genomes of trypanosomatids, a group of kinetoplastid protozoa of significant medical importance, encode two PrimPol-like (PPL) proteins. In the African trypanosome, PPL2 is a nuclear enzyme present in G2 phase cells. Following PPL2 knockdown, a cell-cycle arrest occurs after the bulk of DNA synthesis, the DNA damage response is activated, and cells fail to recover. Consistent with this phenotype, PPL2 replicates damaged DNA templates in vitro, including templates containing the UV-induced pyrimidine-pyrimidone (6-4) photoproduct. Furthermore, PPL2 accumulates at sites of nuclear DNA damage. Taken together, our results indicate an essential role for PPL2 in postreplication tolerance of endogenous DNA damage, thus allowing completion of genome duplication.
Graphical Abstract
•Trypanosomatids contain two archaeo-eukaryotic primase-polymerase-like proteins•PPL2 is essential in the pathogenic bloodstream form African trypanosome•PPL2 suppresses DNA damage and allows completion of chromosomal replication•PPL2 mediates translesion DNA synthesis
PMCID: PMC3898837  PMID: 24267450
3.  Structures to complement the archaeo-eukaryotic primases catalytic cycle description: What's next? 
DNA replication is a crucial stage in the transfer of genetic information from parent to daughter cells. This mechanism involves multiple proteins with one key player being the primase. Primases are single-stranded DNA dependent RNA polymerases. On the leading strand, they synthesize the primer once allowing DNA elongation while on the lagging strand primers are generated repeatedly (Okazaki fragments). Primases have the unique ability to create the first phosphodiester bond yielding a dinucleotide which is initially elongated by primases and then by DNA polymerases.
Primase activity has been studied in the last decades but the detailed molecular steps explaining some unique features remain unclear. High-resolution structures of free and bound primases domains have brought significant insights in the understanding of the primase reaction cycle. Here, we give a short review of the structural work conducted in the field of archaeo-eukaryotic primases and we underline the missing “pictures” of the active forms of the enzyme which are of major interest. We organized our analysis with respect to the progression through the catalytic pathway.
PMCID: PMC4434180  PMID: 25987967
Primases; High-resolution structures; Catalysis; Dinucleotide formation; DNA template; Primer synthesis
4.  Common Origin of Four Diverse Families of Large Eukaryotic DNA Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(23):11720-11734.
Comparative analysis of the protein sequences encoded in the genomes of three families of large DNA viruses that replicate, completely or partly, in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells (poxviruses, asfarviruses, and iridoviruses) and phycodnaviruses that replicate in the nucleus reveals 9 genes that are shared by all of these viruses and 22 more genes that are present in at least three of the four compared viral families. Although orthologous proteins from different viral families typically show weak sequence similarity, because of which some of them have not been identified previously, at least five of the conserved genes appear to be synapomorphies (shared derived characters) that unite these four viral families, to the exclusion of all other known viruses and cellular life forms. Cladistic analysis with the genes shared by at least two viral families as evolutionary characters supports the monophyly of poxviruses, asfarviruses, iridoviruses, and phycodnaviruses. The results of genome comparison allow a tentative reconstruction of the ancestral viral genome and suggest that the common ancestor of all of these viral families was a nucleocytoplasmic virus with an icosahedral capsid, which encoded complex systems for DNA replication and transcription, a redox protein involved in disulfide bond formation in virion membrane proteins, and probably inhibitors of apoptosis. The conservation of the disulfide-oxidoreductase, a major capsid protein, and two virion membrane proteins indicates that the odd-shaped virions of poxviruses have evolved from the more common icosahedral virion seen in asfarviruses, iridoviruses, and phycodnaviruses.
PMCID: PMC114758  PMID: 11689653
5.  A Second Mitochondrial DNA Primase Is Essential for Cell Growth and Kinetoplast Minicircle DNA Replication in Trypanosoma brucei▿† 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(3):445-454.
The mitochondrial DNA of trypanosomes contains two types of circular DNAs, minicircles and maxicircles. Both minicircles and maxicircles replicate from specific replication origins by unidirectional theta-type intermediates. Initiation of the minicircle leading strand and also that of at least the first Okazaki fragment involve RNA priming. The Trypanosoma brucei genome encodes two mitochondrial DNA primases, PRI1 and PRI2, related to the primases of eukaryotic nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses. These primases are members of the archeoeukaryotic primase superfamily, and each of them contain an RNA recognition motif and a PriCT-2 motif. In Leishmania species, PRI2 proteins are approximately 61 to 66 kDa in size, whereas in Trypanosoma species, PRI2 proteins have additional long amino-terminal extensions. RNA interference (RNAi) of T. brucei PRI2 resulted in the loss of kinetoplast DNA and accumulation of covalently closed free minicircles. Recombinant PRI2 lacking this extension (PRI2ΔNT) primes poly(dA) synthesis on a poly(dT) template in an ATP-dependent manner. Mutation of two conserved aspartate residues (PRI2ΔNTCS) resulted in loss of enzymatic activity but not loss of DNA binding. We propose that PRI2 is directly involved in initiating kinetoplast minicircle replication.
PMCID: PMC3067476  PMID: 21257796
6.  A highly divergent archaeo-eukaryotic primase from the Thermococcus nautilus plasmid, pTN2 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(6):3707-3719.
We report the characterization of a DNA primase/polymerase protein (PolpTN2) encoded by the pTN2 plasmid from Thermococcus nautilus. Sequence analysis revealed that this protein corresponds to a fusion between an N-terminal domain homologous to the small catalytic subunit PriS of heterodimeric archaeal and eukaryotic primases (AEP) and a C-terminal domain related to their large regulatory subunit PriL. This unique domain configuration is not found in other virus- and plasmid-encoded primases in which PriS-like domains are typically fused to different types of helicases. PolpTN2 exhibited primase, polymerase and nucleotidyl transferase activities and specifically incorporates dNTPs, to the exclusion of rNTPs. PolpTN2 could efficiently prime DNA synthesis by the T. nautilus PolB DNA polymerase, suggesting that it is used in vivo as a primase for pTN2 plasmid replication. The N-terminal PriS-like domain of PolpTN2 exhibited all activities of the full-length enzyme but was much less efficient in priming cellular DNA polymerases. Surprisingly, the N-terminal domain possesses reverse transcriptase activity. We speculate that this activity could reflect an ancestral function of AEP proteins in the transition from the RNA to the DNA world.
PMCID: PMC3973330  PMID: 24445805
7.  Insights into eukaryotic primer synthesis from structures of the p48 subunit of human DNA primase 
Journal of molecular biology  2013;426(3):558-569.
DNA replication in all organisms requires polymerases to synthesize copies of the genome. DNA polymerases are unable to function on a bare template and require a primer. Primases are crucial RNA polymerases that perform the initial de novo synthesis, generating the first 8–10 nucleotides of the primer. Although structures of archaeal and bacterial primases have provided insights into general priming mechanisms, these proteins are not well conserved with heterodimeric (p48/p58) primases in eukaryotes. Here, we present X-ray crystal structures of the catalytic engine of a eukaryotic primase, which is contained in the p48 subunit. The structures of p48 reveal eukaryotic primases maintain the conserved catalytic prim fold domain, but with a unique sub-domain not found in the archaeal and bacterial primases. Calorimetry experiments reveal Mn2+ but not Mg2+ significantly enhances the binding of nucleotide to primase, which correlates with in vitro higher catalytic efficiency. The structure of p48 with bound UTP and Mn2+ provides insights into the mechanism of nucleotide synthesis by primase. Substitution of conserved residues involved in either metal or nucleotide binding altered nucleotide binding affinities, and yeast strains containing the corresponding Pri1p substitutions were not viable. Our results revealed two residues (S160 and H166) in direct contact with the nucleotide that were previously unrecognized as critical to the human primase active site. Comparing p48 structures to those of similar polymerases in different states of action suggests changes that would be required to attain a catalytically competent conformation capable of initiating dinucleotide synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3946992  PMID: 24239947
DNA replication; DNA primase; manganese; X-family DNA polymerase
8.  The six conserved helicase motifs of the UL5 gene product, a component of the herpes simplex virus type 1 helicase-primase, are essential for its function. 
Journal of Virology  1992;66(1):469-479.
The UL5 protein of herpes simplex virus type 1, one component of the viral helicase-primase complex, contains six sequence motifs found in all members of a superfamily of DNA and RNA helicases. Although this superfamily contains more than 20 members ranging from bacteria to mammalian cells and their viruses, the importance of these motifs has not been addressed experimentally for any one of them. In this study, we have examined the functional significance of these six motifs for the UL5 protein through the introduction of site-specific mutations resulting in single amino acid substitutions of the most highly conserved residues within each motif. A transient replication complementation assay was used to test the effect of each mutation on the function of the UL5 protein in viral DNA replication. In this assay, a mutant UL5 protein expressed from an expression clone is used to complement a replication-deficient null mutant with a mutation in the UL5 gene for the amplification of herpes simplex virus origin-containing plasmids. Eight mutations in conserved regions and three similar mutations in nonconserved regions of the UL5 gene were analyzed, and the results indicate that all six conserved motifs are essential to the function of UL5 protein in viral DNA replication; on the other hand, mutations in nonconserved regions are tolerated. These data provide the first direct evidence for the importance of these conserved regions in any member of the superfamily of DNA and RNA helicases. In addition, three motif mutations were introduced into the viral genome, and the phenotypic analyses of these mutants are consistent with results from the transient replication complementation assay. The ability of these three mutant UL5 proteins to form specific interactions with other members of the helicase-primase complex, UL8 and UL52, indicates that the functional domains required for replication activity of UL5 are separable from domains responsible for protein-protein interactions. It is anticipated that this type of structure-function analysis will lead to the identification of protein domains that contribute not only to the enzymatic activities of helicase or primase but also to protein-protein interactions within members of the complex.
PMCID: PMC238307  PMID: 1309257
9.  Three-Dimensional Structure of N-Terminal Domain of DnaB Helicase and Helicase-Primase Interactions in Helicobacter pylori 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7515.
Replication initiation is a crucial step in genome duplication and homohexameric DnaB helicase plays a central role in the replication initiation process by unwinding the duplex DNA and interacting with several other proteins during the process of replication. N-terminal domain of DnaB is critical for helicase activity and for DnaG primase interactions. We present here the crystal structure of the N-terminal domain (NTD) of H. pylori DnaB (HpDnaB) helicase at 2.2 Å resolution and compare the structural differences among helicases and correlate with the functional differences. The structural details of NTD suggest that the linker region between NTD and C-terminal helicase domain plays a vital role in accurate assembly of NTD dimers. The sequence analysis of the linker regions from several helicases reveals that they should form four helix bundles. We also report the characterization of H. pylori DnaG primase and study the helicase-primase interactions, where HpDnaG primase stimulates DNA unwinding activity of HpDnaB suggesting presence of helicase-primase cohort at the replication fork. The protein-protein interaction study of C-terminal domain of primase and different deletion constructs of helicase suggests that linker is essential for proper conformation of NTD to interact strongly with HpDnaG. The surface charge distribution on the primase binding surface of NTDs of various helicases suggests that DnaB-DnaG interaction and stability of the complex is most probably charge dependent. Structure of the linker and helicase-primase interactions indicate that HpDnaB differs greatly from E.coli DnaB despite both belong to gram negative bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2761005  PMID: 19841750
10.  Properties of an unusual DNA primase from an archaeal plasmid 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(17):5635-5645.
Primases are specialized DNA-dependent RNA polymerases that synthesize a short oligoribonucleotide complementary to single-stranded template DNA. In the context of cellular DNA replication, primases are indispensable since DNA polymerases are not able to start DNA polymerization de novo.
The primase activity of the replication protein from the archaeal plasmid pRN1 synthesizes a rather unusual mixed primer consisting of a single ribonucleotide at the 5′ end followed by seven deoxynucleotides. Ribonucleotides and deoxynucleotides are strictly required at the respective positions within the primer. Furthermore, in contrast to other archaeo-eukaryotic primases, the primase activity is highly sequence-specific and requires the trinucleotide motif GTG in the template. Primer synthesis starts outside of the recognition motif, immediately 5′ to the recognition motif. The fidelity of the primase synthesis is high, as non-complementary bases are not incorporated into the primer.
PMCID: PMC2034472  PMID: 17709343
11.  The Mini-Chromosome Maintenance (Mcm) Complexes Interact with DNA Polymerase α-Primase and Stimulate Its Ability to Synthesize RNA Primers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72408.
The Mini-chromosome maintenance (Mcm) proteins are essential as central components for the DNA unwinding machinery during eukaryotic DNA replication. DNA primase activity is required at the DNA replication fork to synthesize short RNA primers for DNA chain elongation on the lagging strand. Although direct physical and functional interactions between helicase and primase have been known in many prokaryotic and viral systems, potential interactions between helicase and primase have not been explored in eukaryotes. Using purified Mcm and DNA primase complexes, a direct physical interaction is detected in pull-down assays between the Mcm2∼7 complex and the hetero-dimeric DNA primase composed of the p48 and p58 subunits. The Mcm4/6/7 complex co-sediments with the primase and the DNA polymerase α-primase complex in glycerol gradient centrifugation and forms a Mcm4/6/7-primase-DNA ternary complex in gel-shift assays. Both the Mcm4/6/7 and Mcm2∼7 complexes stimulate RNA primer synthesis by DNA primase in vitro. However, primase inhibits the Mcm4/6/7 helicase activity and this inhibition is abolished by the addition of competitor DNA. In contrast, the ATP hydrolysis activity of Mcm4/6/7 complex is not affected by primase. Mcm and primase proteins mutually stimulate their DNA-binding activities. Our findings indicate that a direct physical interaction between primase and Mcm proteins may facilitate priming reaction by the former protein, suggesting that efficient DNA synthesis through helicase-primase interactions may be conserved in eukaryotic chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3748026  PMID: 23977294
12.  PrimPol Bypasses UV Photoproducts during Eukaryotic Chromosomal DNA Replication 
Molecular Cell  2013;52(4):566-573.
DNA damage can stall the DNA replication machinery, leading to genomic instability. Thus, numerous mechanisms exist to complete genome duplication in the absence of a pristine DNA template, but identification of the enzymes involved remains incomplete. Here, we establish that Primase-Polymerase (PrimPol; CCDC111), an archaeal-eukaryotic primase (AEP) in eukaryotic cells, is involved in chromosomal DNA replication. PrimPol is required for replication fork progression on ultraviolet (UV) light-damaged DNA templates, possibly mediated by its ability to catalyze translesion synthesis (TLS) of these lesions. This PrimPol UV lesion bypass pathway is not epistatic with the Pol η-dependent pathway and, as a consequence, protects xeroderma pigmentosum variant (XP-V) patient cells from UV-induced cytotoxicity. In addition, we establish that PrimPol is also required for efficient replication fork progression during an unperturbed S phase. These and other findings indicate that PrimPol is an important player in replication fork progression in eukaryotic cells.
Graphical Abstract
•PrimPol is a DNA primase-polymerase catalyzing bypass of UV and oxidative lesions•PrimPol operates in a UV lesion tolerance pathway that is non-epistatic with Pol η•PrimPol null cells are defective in fork progression, particularly after UV treatment•Loss of PrimPol leads to increased mitotic chromosomal breaks
PMCID: PMC4228047  PMID: 24267451
13.  The mouse DNA polymerase alpha-primase subunit p48 mediates species-specific replication of polyomavirus DNA in vitro. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(3):1716-1724.
Mouse cell extracts support vigorous replication of polyomavirus (Py) DNA in vitro, while human cell extracts do not. However, the addition of purified mouse DNA polymerase alpha-primase to human cell extracts renders them permissive for Py DNA replication, suggesting that mouse polymerase alpha-primase determines the species specificity of Py DNA replication. We set out to identify the subunit of mouse polymerase alpha-primase that mediates this species specificity. To this end, we cloned and expressed cDNAs encoding all four subunits of mouse and human polymerase alpha-primase. Purified recombinant mouse polymerase alpha-primase and a hybrid DNA polymerase alpha-primase complex composed of human subunits p180 and p68 and mouse subunits p58 and p48 supported Py DNA replication in human cell extracts depleted of polymerase alpha-primase, suggesting that the primase heterodimer or one of its subunits controls host specificity. To determine whether both mouse primase subunits were required, recombinant hybrid polymerase alpha-primases containing only one mouse primase subunit, p48 or p58, together with three human subunits, were assayed for Py replication activity. Only the hybrid containing mouse p48 efficiently replicated Py DNA in depleted human cell extracts. Moreover, in a purified initiation assay containing Py T antigen, replication protein A (RP-A) and topoisomerase I, only the hybrid polymerase alpha-primase containing the mouse p48 subunit initiated primer synthesis on Py origin DNA. Together, these results indicate that the p48 subunit is primarily responsible for the species specificity of Py DNA replication in vitro. Specific physical association of Py T antigen with purified recombinant DNA polymerase alpha-primase, mouse DNA primase heterodimer, and mouse p48 suggested that direct interactions between Py T antigen and primase could play a role in species-specific initiation of Py replication.
PMCID: PMC230396  PMID: 7862163
14.  Molecular dissection of the domain architecture and catalytic activities of human PrimPol 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(9):5830-5845.
PrimPol is a primase–polymerase involved in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA replication in eukaryotic cells. Although PrimPol is predicted to possess an archaeo-eukaryotic primase and a UL52-like zinc finger domain, the role of these domains has not been established. Here, we report that the proposed zinc finger domain of human PrimPol binds zinc ions and is essential for maintaining primase activity. Although apparently dispensable for its polymerase activity, the zinc finger also regulates the processivity and fidelity of PrimPol's extension activities. When the zinc finger is disrupted, PrimPol becomes more promutagenic, has an altered translesion synthesis spectrum and is capable of faithfully bypassing cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer photolesions. PrimPol's polymerase domain binds to both single- and double-stranded DNA, whilst the zinc finger domain binds only to single-stranded DNA. We additionally report that although PrimPol's primase activity is required to restore wild-type replication fork rates in irradiated PrimPol−/− cells, polymerase activity is sufficient to maintain regular replisome progression in unperturbed cells. Together, these findings provide the first analysis of the molecular architecture of PrimPol, describing the activities associated with, and interplay between, its functional domains and defining the requirement for its primase and polymerase activities during nuclear DNA replication.
PMCID: PMC4027207  PMID: 24682820
15.  Two distinct SSB protein families in nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(24):3186-3190.
Motivation: Eukaryote-infecting nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs) feature some of the largest genomes in the viral world. These viruses typically do not strongly depend on the host DNA replication systems. In line with this observation, a number of essential DNA replication proteins, such as DNA polymerases, primases, helicases and ligases, have been identified in the NCLDVs. One other ubiquitous component of DNA replisomes is the single-stranded DNA-binding (SSB) protein. Intriguingly, no NCLDV homologs of canonical OB-fold-containing SSB proteins had previously been detected. Only in poxviruses, one of seven NCLDV families, I3 was identified as the SSB protein. However, whether I3 is related to any known protein structure has not yet been established.
Results: Here, we addressed the case of ‘missing’ canonical SSB proteins in the NCLDVs and also probed evolutionary origins of the I3 family. Using advanced computational methods, in four NCLDV families, we detected homologs of the bacteriophage T7 SSB protein (gp2.5). We found the properties of these homologs to be consistent with the SSB function. Moreover, we implicated specific residues in single-stranded DNA binding. At the same time, we found no evolutionary link between the T7 gp2.5-like NCLDV SSB homologs and the poxviral SSB protein (I3). Instead, we identified a distant relationship between I3 and small protein B (SmpB), a bacterial RNA-binding protein. Thus, apparently, the NCLDVs have the two major distinct sets of SSB proteins having bacteriophage and bacterial origins, respectively.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3519460  PMID: 23097418
16.  Domain structure of phage P4 alpha protein deduced by mutational analysis. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(15):4333-4341.
Bacteriophage P4 DNA replication depends on the product of the alpha gene, which has origin recognition ability, DNA helicase activity, and DNA primase activity. One temperature-sensitive and four amber mutations that eliminate DNA replication in vivo were sequenced and located in the alpha gene. Sequence analysis of the entire gene predicted a domain structure for the alpha polypeptide chain (777 amino acid residues, M(r) 84,900), with the N terminus providing the catalytic activity for the primase and the middle part providing that for the helicase/nucleoside triphosphatase. This model was confirmed experimentally in vivo and in vitro. In addition, the ori DNA recognition ability was found to be associated with the C-terminal third of the alpha polypeptide chain. The type A nucleotide-binding site is required for P4 replication in vivo, as shown for alpha mutations at G-506 and K-507. In the absence of an active DnaG protein, the primase function is also essential for P4 replication. Primase-null and helicase-null mutants retain the two remaining activities functionally in vitro and in vivo. The latter was demonstrated by trans complementation studies, indicating the assembly of active P4 replisomes by a primase-null and a helicase-null mutant.
PMCID: PMC177181  PMID: 7635818
17.  The Epstein-Barr Virus Lytic Transactivator Zta Interacts with the Helicase-Primase Replication Proteins 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(11):8559-8567.
The Epstein-Barr virus transactivator Zta triggers lytic gene expression and is essential for replication of the lytic origin, oriLyt. Previous analysis indicated that the Zta activation domain contributed a replication-specific function. We now show that the Zta activation domain interacts with components of the EBV helicase-primase complex. The three helicase-primase proteins BBLF4 (helicase), BSLF1 (primase), and BBLF2/3 (primase-associated factor) were expressed fused to the Myc epitope. When expression plasmids for BBLF4 or BBLF2/3 plus BSLF1 (primase subcomplex) were separately transfected, the proteins localized to the cytoplasm. Interaction between Zta and the components of the helicase-primase complex was tested by examining the ability of Zta to alter the intracellular localization of these proteins. Cotransfection of Zta with Myc-BBLF4 resulted in nuclear translocation of Myc-BBLF4; similarly, cotransfection of Zta with the primase subcomplex led to nuclear translocation of the Myc-BSLF1 and Myc-BBLF2/3 proteins. This relocalization provides evidence for an interaction between Zta and the helicase and Zta and the primase subcomplex. An affinity assay using glutathione S-transferase–Zta fusion proteins demonstrated that Myc-BBLF4 and Myc-BBLF2/3 plus BSLF1 bound to the Zta activation domain (amino acids 1 to 133). In the nuclear relocalization assay, the amino-terminal 25 amino acids of Zta were required for efficient interaction with the primase subcomplex but not for interaction with BBLF4. Evidence for interaction between oriLyt bound Zta and the helicase-primase complex was obtained in a superactivation assay using an oriLyt-chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter. Zta activated expression from a CAT reporter containing the complete oriLyt region and regulated by the oriLyt BHLF1 promoter. Cotransfection of the helicase-primase proteins, one of which was fused to a heterologous activation domain, led to Zta-dependent superactivation of CAT expression. This assay also provided evidence for an interaction between the single-stranded DNA binding protein, BALF2, and the Zta-tethered helicase-primase complex. The helicase-primase interaction is consistent with a role for Zta in stabilizing the formation of an origin-bound replication complex.
PMCID: PMC110266  PMID: 9765394
18.  Effects of T antigen and replication protein A on the initiation of DNA synthesis by DNA polymerase alpha-primase. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(4):2108-2115.
Studies of simian virus 40 (SV40) DNA replication in a reconstituted cell-free system have established that T antigen and two cellular replication proteins, replication protein A (RP-A) and DNA polymerase alpha-primase complex, are necessary and sufficient for initiation of DNA synthesis on duplex templates containing the SV40 origin of DNA replication. To better understand the mechanism of initiation of DNA synthesis, we analyzed the functional interactions of T antigen, RP-A, and DNA polymerase alpha-primase on model single-stranded DNA templates. Purified DNA polymerase alpha-primase was capable of initiating DNA synthesis de novo on unprimed single-stranded DNA templates. This reaction involved the synthesis of a short oligoribonucleotide primer which was then extended into a DNA chain. We observed that the synthesis of ribonucleotide primers by DNA polymerase alpha-primase is dramatically stimulated by SV40 T antigen. The presence of T antigen also increased the average length of the DNA product synthesized on primed and unprimed single-stranded DNA templates. These stimulatory effects of T antigen required direct contact with DNA polymerase alpha-primase complex and were most marked at low template and polymerase concentrations. We also observed that the single-stranded DNA binding protein, RP-A, strongly inhibits the primase activity of DNA polymerase alpha-primase, probably by blocking access of the enzyme to the template. T antigen partially reversed the inhibition caused by RP-A. Our data support a model in which DNA priming is mediated by a complex between T antigen and DNA polymerase alpha-primase with the template, while RP-A acts to suppress nonspecific priming events.
PMCID: PMC359898  PMID: 1848671
19.  The ancient Virus World and evolution of cells 
Biology Direct  2006;1:29.
Recent advances in genomics of viruses and cellular life forms have greatly stimulated interest in the origins and evolution of viruses and, for the first time, offer an opportunity for a data-driven exploration of the deepest roots of viruses. Here we briefly review the current views of virus evolution and propose a new, coherent scenario that appears to be best compatible with comparative-genomic data and is naturally linked to models of cellular evolution that, from independent considerations, seem to be the most parsimonious among the existing ones.
Several genes coding for key proteins involved in viral replication and morphogenesis as well as the major capsid protein of icosahedral virions are shared by many groups of RNA and DNA viruses but are missing in cellular life forms. On the basis of this key observation and the data on extensive genetic exchange between diverse viruses, we propose the concept of the ancient virus world. The virus world is construed as a distinct contingent of viral genes that continuously retained its identity throughout the entire history of life. Under this concept, the principal lineages of viruses and related selfish agents emerged from the primordial pool of primitive genetic elements, the ancestors of both cellular and viral genes. Thus, notwithstanding the numerous gene exchanges and acquisitions attributed to later stages of evolution, most, if not all, modern viruses and other selfish agents are inferred to descend from elements that belonged to the primordial genetic pool. In this pool, RNA viruses would evolve first, followed by retroid elements, and DNA viruses. The Virus World concept is predicated on a model of early evolution whereby emergence of substantial genetic diversity antedates the advent of full-fledged cells, allowing for extensive gene mixing at this early stage of evolution. We outline a scenario of the origin of the main classes of viruses in conjunction with a specific model of precellular evolution under which the primordial gene pool dwelled in a network of inorganic compartments. Somewhat paradoxically, under this scenario, we surmise that selfish genetic elements ancestral to viruses evolved prior to typical cells, to become intracellular parasites once bacteria and archaea arrived at the scene. Selection against excessively aggressive parasites that would kill off the host ensembles of genetic elements would lead to early evolution of temperate virus-like agents and primitive defense mechanisms, possibly, based on the RNA interference principle. The emergence of the eukaryotic cell is construed as the second melting pot of virus evolution from which the major groups of eukaryotic viruses originated as a result of extensive recombination of genes from various bacteriophages, archaeal viruses, plasmids, and the evolving eukaryotic genomes. Again, this vision is predicated on a specific model of the emergence of eukaryotic cell under which archaeo-bacterial symbiosis was the starting point of eukaryogenesis, a scenario that appears to be best compatible with the data.
The existence of several genes that are central to virus replication and structure, are shared by a broad variety of viruses but are missing from cellular genomes (virus hallmark genes) suggests the model of an ancient virus world, a flow of virus-specific genes that went uninterrupted from the precellular stage of life's evolution to this day. This concept is tightly linked to two key conjectures on evolution of cells: existence of a complex, precellular, compartmentalized but extensively mixing and recombining pool of genes, and origin of the eukaryotic cell by archaeo-bacterial fusion. The virus world concept and these models of major transitions in the evolution of cells provide complementary pieces of an emerging coherent picture of life's history.
W. Ford Doolittle, J. Peter Gogarten, and Arcady Mushegian.
PMCID: PMC1594570  PMID: 16984643
20.  DNA primase of plasmid ColIb is involved in conjugal DnA synthesis in donor and recipient bacteria. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1982;152(3):1188-1195.
The sog gene of the IncI alpha group plasmid ColIb is known to encode a DNA primase that can substitute for defective host primase in dnaG mutants of Escherichia coli during discontinuous DNA replication. The biological significance of this enzyme was investigated by using sog mutants, constructed from a derivative of ColIb by in vivo recombination of previously defined mutations in a cloned sog gene. The resultant Sog- plasmids failed to specify detectable primase activity and were unable to suppress a dnaG lesion. These mutants were maintained stably in E. coli, implying that the enzyme is not involved in vegetative replication of ColIb. However, the Sog- plasmids were partially transfer deficient in E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium matings, consistent with the hypothesis that the normal physiological role of this enzyme is in conjugation. This was confirmed by measurements of conjugal DNA synthesis. Studies of recipient cells have indicated that plasmid primase is required to initiate efficient synthesis of DNA complementary to the transferred strand, with the protein being supplied by the donor parent and probably transmitted between the mating cells. Primase specified by the dnaG gene of the recipient can substitute partially for the mutant enzyme, thus providing an explanation for the partial transfer proficiency of the mutant plasmids. Conjugal DNA synthesis in dnaB donor cells was deficient in the absence of plasmid primase, implying that the enzyme also initiates synthesis of DNA to replace the transferred material.
PMCID: PMC221626  PMID: 6754700
21.  Regulation of the production of extracellular pectinase, cellulase, and protease in the soft rot bacterium Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora: evidence that aepH of E. carotovora subsp. carotovora 71 activates gene expression in E. carotovora subsp. carotovora, E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica, and Escherichia coli. 
The production of pectolytic enzymes (pectate lyase [Pel] and polygalacturonase [Peh]), cellulase (Cel), and protease (Prt) is activated in the soft rot bacterium Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora by aepA (activator of extracellular protein production) and celery extract (Y. Liu, H. Murata, A. Chatterjee, and A. K. Chatterjee, Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 6:299-308, 1993). We recently isolated a new class of mutants of strain E. carotovora subsp. carotovora 71 which overproduces Pel, Peh, Cel, and Prt. From the overproducing strain AC5034, we identified an activator locus, designated aepH*, which stimulated Pel, Peh, Cel, and Prt production in E. carotovora subsp. carotovora 71 or its derivatives. The nucleotide sequence of the aepH* DNA segment revealed an open reading frame of 141 bp that could encode a small (5.45-kDa) highly basic (pI 11.7) protein of 47 amino acid residues. Analyses of deletions and MudI insertions indicated that the activator function required the 508-bp DNA segment which contains this open reading frame. The wild-type locus, aepH+, is localized within a DNA segment upstream of aepA. An AepH- strain constructed by exchanging aepH+ with aepH*::MudI was deficient in Pel, Peh, Cel, and Prt production; exoenzyme production was restored upon the introduction of a plasmid carrying aepH+ or aepH*. Plasmids carrying either aepH+ or aepH* activated the production of Pel-1, Peh-1, and Cel in Escherichia coli HB101 carrying the cognate genes. The aepH effect in E. coli was due to the activation of transcription, as indicated by assays of pel-1 and peh-1 mRNAs. The aepH+ and aepH* plasmids also stimulated Pel, Peh, Cel, and Prt production in other wild-type E. carotovora subsp. carotovora strains as well as in E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica. Although the stimulatory effect was generally more pronounced with aepH* than with aepH+, the extent of activation in the wild-type strains depended upon the bacterial strain and the growth medium. Southern blot hybridization revealed the presence of aepH homologs in E. carotovora subsp. carotovora and E. carotovora subsp. atroseptica, and provided physical evidence for linkage between aepA and aepH homologs in genomes of these bacteria. We conclude that aepH-mediated activation of exoprotein gene expression is a feature common to most strains of E. carotovora.
PMCID: PMC201783  PMID: 7944360
22.  Identification and characterization of a DNA primase activity present in herpes simplex virus type 1-infected HeLa cells. 
Journal of Virology  1988;62(3):1038-1045.
A novel DNA primase activity has been identified in HeLa cells infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Such an activity has not been detected in mock-infected cells. The primase activity coeluted with a portion of HSV-1 DNA polymerase from single-stranded DNA agarose columns loaded with high-salt extracts derived from infected cells. This DNA primase activity could be distinguished from host HeLa cell DNA primase by several criteria. First, the pH optimum of the HSV primase was relatively broad and peaked at 8.2 to 8.7 pH units. In contrast, the pH optimum of the HeLa DNA primase was very sharp and fell between pH 7.9 and 8.2. Second, freshly isolated HSV DNA primase was less salt sensitive than the HeLa primase and was eluted from single-stranded DNA agarose at higher salt concentrations than the host primase. Third, antibodies raised against individual peptides of the calf thymus DNA polymerase:primase complex cross-reacted with the HeLa primase but did not react with the HSV DNA primase. Fourth, freshly prepared HSV DNA primase appeared to be associated with the HSV polymerase, but after storage at 4 degrees C for several weeks, the DNA primase separated from the viral DNA polymerase. Separation or decoupling could also be achieved by gel filtration of the HSV polymerase:primase. This free DNA primase had an apparent molecular size of approximately 40 kilodaltons, whereas free HeLa DNA primase had an apparent molecular size of approximately 110 kilodaltons. On the basis of these data, we believe that the novel DNA primase activity in HSV-infected cells may be virus coded and that this enzyme represents a new and important function involved in the replication of HSV DNA.
PMCID: PMC253664  PMID: 2828652
23.  A Hsp40 Chaperone Protein Interacts with and Modulates the Cellular Distribution of the Primase Protein of Human Cytomegalovirus 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(11):e1002968.
Genomic DNA replication is a universal and essential process for all herpesvirus including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). HCMV UL70 protein, which is believed to encode the primase activity of the viral DNA replication machinery and is highly conserved among herpesviruses, needs to be localized in the nucleus, the site of viral DNA synthesis. No host factors that facilitate the nuclear import of UL70 have been reported. In this study, we provided the first direct evidence that UL70 specifically interacts with a highly conserved and ubiquitously expressed member of the heat shock protein Hsp40/DNAJ family, DNAJB6, which is expressed as two isoforms, a and b, as a result of alternative splicing. The interaction of UL70 with a common region of DNAJB6a and b was identified by both a two hybrid screen in yeast and coimmunoprecipitation in human cells. In transfected cells, UL70 was primarily co-localized with DNAJB6a in the nuclei and with DNAJB6b in the cytoplasm, respectively. The nuclear import of UL70 was increased in cells in which DNAJB6a was up-regulated or DNAJB6b was down-regulated, and was reduced in cells in which DNAJB6a was down-regulated or DNAJB6b was up-regulated. Furthermore, the level of viral DNA synthesis and progeny production was increased in cells in which DNAJB6a was up-regulated or DNAJB6b was down-regulated, and was reduced in cells in which DNAJB6a was down-regulated or DNAJB6b was up-regulated. Thus, DNAJB6a and b appear to enhance the nuclear import and cytoplasmic accumulation of UL70, respectively. Our results also suggest that the relative expression levels of DNAJB6 isoforms may play a key role in regulating the cellular localization of UL70, leading to modulation of HCMV DNA synthesis and lytic infection.
Author Summary
Genomic DNA replication is highly conserved across all herpesviruses including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and is the target for most of the current FDA-approved anti-herpes therapeutic agents. Little is known about how UL70, which is believed to encode the primase activity of the viral DNA replication machinery and is essential for genomic replication, is imported to the nuclei, the site of viral DNA synthesis. In this study, we demonstrated that the HCMV primase interacts with a highly conserved and ubiquitously expressed chaperone protein DNAJB6 that belongs to the heat shock protein 40 (Hsp40) family. As a result of alternative splicing, DNAJB6 is expressed as two isoforms, a and b. While DNAJB6b promotes cytoplasmic accumulation of the viral primase, DNAJB6a enhances its nuclear distribution, representing the first example of a cellular factor involved in facilitating nuclear import of a herpesvirus primase. Our study suggests that the relative expression level of DNAJB6 isoforms may represent a novel mechanism for modulating HCMV lytic replication by regulating the cellular localization of the viral primase. Furthermore, our results raise the possibility of developing new strategies for treating herpesvirus replication by modulating the cellular distribution of the primase with altered expression of a cellular protein.
PMCID: PMC3486897  PMID: 23133382
24.  The archaeo-eukaryotic GINS proteins and the archaeal primase catalytic subunit PriS share a common domain 
Biology Direct  2010;5:17.
Primase and GINS are essential factors for chromosomal DNA replication in eukaryotic and archaeal cells. Here we describe a previously undetected relationship between the C-terminal domain of the catalytic subunit (PriS) of archaeal primase and the B-domains of the archaeo-eukaryotic GINS proteins in the form of a conserved structural domain comprising a three-stranded antiparallel β-sheet adjacent to an α-helix and a two-stranded β-sheet or hairpin. The presence of a shared domain in archaeal PriS and GINS proteins, the genes for which are often found adjacent on the chromosome, suggests simple mechanisms for the evolution of these proteins.
This article was reviewed by Zvi Kelman (nominated by Michael Galperin) and Kira Makarova.
PMCID: PMC2861644  PMID: 20385010
25.  A Conserved Motif in the C-terminal Tail of DNA Polymerase α Tethers Primase to the Eukaryotic Replisome* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(28):23740-23747.
Background: Primase initiates DNA replication together with DNA polymerase α and forms part of the eukaryotic replisome.
Results: Primase is tethered by a short motif in pol α that is functionally important.
Conclusion: Tethering primase to the eukaryotic replisome is critical for normal DNA replication.
Significance: Small molecule inhibitors of the primase-pol α interaction might be valuable in antitumor therapies.
The DNA polymerase α-primase complex forms an essential part of the eukaryotic replisome. The catalytic subunits of primase and pol α synthesize composite RNA-DNA primers that initiate the leading and lagging DNA strands at replication forks. The physical basis and physiological significance of tethering primase to the eukaryotic replisome via pol α remain poorly characterized. We have identified a short conserved motif at the extreme C terminus of pol α that is critical for interaction of the yeast ortholog pol1 with primase. We show that truncation of the C-terminal residues 1452–1468 of Pol1 abrogates the interaction with the primase, as does mutation to alanine of the invariant amino acid Phe1463. Conversely, a pol1 peptide spanning the last 16 residues binds primase with high affinity, and the equivalent peptide from human Pol α binds primase in an analogous fashion. These in vitro data are mirrored by experiments in yeast cells, as primase does not interact in cell extracts with pol1 that either terminates at residue 1452 or has the F1463A mutation. The ability to disrupt the association between primase and pol α allowed us to assess the physiological significance of primase being tethered to the eukaryotic replisome in this way. We find that the F1463A mutation in Pol1 renders yeast cells dependent on the S phase checkpoint, whereas truncation of Pol1 at amino acid 1452 blocks yeast cell proliferation. These findings indicate that tethering of primase to the replisome by pol α is critical for the normal action of DNA replication forks in eukaryotic cells.
PMCID: PMC3390648  PMID: 22593576
Biophysics; DNA Polymerase; DNA Primase; DNA Replication; Yeast Genetics; Replication Fork; Replisome; S Phase Checkpoint

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