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Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2009 Sep-Oct;44(5):326-42. doi: 10.1080/10409230903186012.

Structural biology of MCM helicases.

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  • 1Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, UK.


The eukaryotic MCM2-7 complex is recruited onto origins of replication during the G1 phase of the cell cycle and acts as the main helicase at the replication fork during the S phase. Over the last few years a number of structural reports on MCM proteins using both electron microscopy and protein crystallography have been published. The crystal structures of two (almost) full-length archaeal homologs provide the first atomic pictures of a MCM helicase. However one of the structures is at low resolution and the other is of an inactive MCM. Moreover, both proteins are monomeric in the crystal, whereas the activity of the complex is critically dependent on oligomerization. Lower resolution structures derived from electron microscopy studies are therefore crucial to complement the crystallographic analysis and to assemble the multimeric complex that is active in the cell. A critical analysis of all the structural results elucidates the potential conformational changes and dynamic behavior of MCM helicase to provide a first insight into the gamut of molecular configurations adopted during the processes of DNA melting and unwinding.

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