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J Biol Chem. 2006 Mar 31;281(13):8697-706. Epub 2006 Jan 9.

Site-directed mutations of T4 helicase loading protein (gp59) reveal multiple modes of DNA polymerase inhibition and the mechanism of unlocking by gp41 helicase.

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Department of Chemistry, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


The T4 helicase loading protein (gp59) interacts with a multitude of DNA replication proteins. In an effort to determine the functional consequences of these protein-protein interactions, point mutations were introduced into the gp59 protein. Mutations were chosen based on the available crystal structure and focused on hydrophobic residues with a high degree of solvent accessibility. Characterization of the mutant proteins revealed a single mutation, Y122A, which is defective in polymerase binding and has weakened affinity for the helicase. The interaction between single-stranded DNA-binding protein and Y122A is unaffected, as is the affinity of Y122A for DNA substrates. When standard concentrations of helicase are employed, Y122A is unable to productively load the helicase onto forked DNA substrates. As a result of the loss of polymerase binding, Y122A cannot inhibit the polymerase during nucleotide idling or prevent it from removing the primer strand of a D-loop. However, Y122A is capable of inhibiting strand displacement synthesis by polymerase. The retention of strand displacement inhibition by Y122A, even in the absence of a gp59-polymerase interaction, indicates that there are two modes of polymerase inhibition by gp59. Inhibition of the polymerase activity only requires gp59 to bind to the replication fork, whereas inhibition of the exonuclease activity requires an interaction between the polymerase and gp59. The inability of Y122A to interact with both the polymerase and the helicase suggests a mechanism for polymerase unlocking by the helicase based on a direct competition between the helicase and polymerase for an overlapping binding site on gp59.

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