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J Mol Biol. 2001 Mar 23;307(2):541-56.

Structural biochemistry of a type 2 RNase H: RNA primer recognition and removal during DNA replication.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


DNA replication and cellular survival requires efficient removal of RNA primers during lagging strand DNA synthesis. In eukaryotes, RNA primer removal is initiated by type 2 RNase H, which specifically cleaves the RNA portion of an RNA-DNA/DNA hybrid duplex. This conserved type 2 RNase H family of replicative enzymes shares little sequence similarity with the well-characterized prokaryotic type 1 RNase H enzymes, yet both possess similar enzymatic properties. Crystal structures and structure-based mutational analysis of RNase HII from Archaeoglobus fulgidus, both with and without a bound metal ion, identify the active site for type 2 RNase H enzymes that provides the general nuclease activity necessary for catalysis. The two-domain architecture of type 2 RNase H creates a positively charged binding groove and links the unique C-terminal helix-loop-helix cap domain to the active site catalytic domain. This architectural arrangement apparently couples directional A-form duplex binding, by a hydrogen-bonding Arg-Lys phosphate ruler motif, to substrate-discrimination, by a tyrosine finger motif, thereby providing substrate-specific catalytic activity. Combined kinetic and mutational analyses of structurally implicated substrate binding residues validate this binding mode. These structural and mutational results together suggest a molecular mechanism for type 2 RNase H enzymes for the specific recognition and cleavage of RNA in the RNA-DNA junction within hybrid duplexes, which reconciles the broad substrate binding affinity with the catalytic specificity observed in biochemical assays. In combination with a recent independent structural analysis, these results furthermore identify testable molecular hypotheses for the activity and function of the type 2 RNase H family of enzymes, including structural complementarity, substrate-mediated conformational changes and coordination with subsequent FEN-1 activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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