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J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 27;287(18):14545-56. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.309468. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Human mitochondrial DNA helicase TWINKLE is both an unwinding and annealing helicase.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


TWINKLE is a nucleus-encoded human mitochondrial (mt)DNA helicase. Point mutations in TWINKLE are associated with heritable neuromuscular diseases characterized by deletions in the mtDNA. To understand the biochemical basis of these diseases, it is important to define the roles of TWINKLE in mtDNA metabolism by studying its enzymatic activities. To this end, we purified native TWINKLE from Escherichia coli. The recombinant TWINKLE assembles into hexamers and higher oligomers, and addition of MgUTP stabilizes hexamers over higher oligomers. Probing into the DNA unwinding activity, we discovered that the efficiency of unwinding is greatly enhanced in the presence of a heterologous single strand-binding protein or a single-stranded (ss) DNA that is complementary to the unwound strand. We show that TWINKLE, although a helicase, has an antagonistic activity of annealing two complementary ssDNAs that interferes with unwinding in the absence of gp2.5 or ssDNA trap. Furthermore, only ssDNA and not double-stranded (ds)DNA competitively inhibits the annealing activity, although both DNAs bind with high affinities. This implies that dsDNA binds to a site that is distinct from the ssDNA-binding site that promotes annealing. Fluorescence anisotropy competition binding experiments suggest that TWINKLE has more than one ssDNA-binding sites, and we speculate that a surface-exposed ssDNA-specific site is involved in catalyzing DNA annealing. We propose that the strand annealing activity of TWINKLE may play a role in recombination-mediated replication initiation found in the mitochondria of mammalian brain and heart or in replication fork regression during repair of damaged DNA replication forks.

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