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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Oct;34(1):53-66.

The N-terminus promotes oligomerization of the Escherichia coli initiator protein DnaA.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Genetik, Ihnestrasse 73, D-14195 Berlin-Dahlem, Germany.


Initiation of chromosome replication in Escherichia coli is governed by the interaction of the initiator protein DnaA with the replication origin oriC. Here we present evidence that homo-oligomerization of DnaA via its N-terminus (amino acid residues 1-86) is also essential for initiation. Results from solid-phase protein-binding assays indicate that residues 1-86 (or 1-77) of DnaA are necessary and sufficient for self interaction. Using a 'one-hybrid-system' we found that the DnaA N-terminus can functionally replace the dimerization domain of coliphage lambda cl repressor: a lambdacl-DnaA chimeric protein inhibits lambda plasmid replication as efficiently as lambdacI repressor. DnaA derivatives with deletions in the N-terminus are incapable of supporting chromosome replication from oriC, and, conversely, overexpression of the DnaA N-terminus inhibits initiation in vivo. Together, these results indicate that (i) oligomerization of DnaA N-termini is essential for protein function during initiation, and (ii) oligomerization does not require intramolecular cross-talk with the nucleotide-binding domain III or the DNA-binding domain IV. We propose that E. coli DnaA is composed of largely independent domains - or modules - each contributing a partial, though essential, function to the proper functioning of the 'holoprotein'.

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