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Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 Feb;42(4):2257-69. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt1148. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

The ORC/Cdc6/MCM2-7 complex facilitates MCM2-7 dimerization during prereplicative complex formation.

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DNA Replication Group, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, UK and Microscopy Unit, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin 14195, Germany.


The replicative mini-chromosome-maintenance 2-7 (MCM2-7) helicase is loaded in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and other eukaryotes as a head-to-head double-hexamer around origin DNA. At first, ORC/Cdc6 recruits with the help of Cdt1 a single MCM2-7 hexamer to form an 'initial' ORC/Cdc6/Cdt1/MCM2-7 complex. Then, on ATP hydrolysis and Cdt1 release, the 'initial' complex is transformed into an ORC/Cdc6/MCM2-7 (OCM) complex. However, it remains unclear how the OCM is subsequently converted into a MCM2-7 double-hexamer. Through analysis of MCM2-7 hexamer-interface mutants we discovered a complex competent for MCM2-7 dimerization. We demonstrate that these MCM2-7 mutants arrest during prereplicative complex (pre-RC) assembly after OCM formation, but before MCM2-7 double-hexamer assembly. Remarkably, only the OCM complex, but not the 'initial' ORC/Cdc6/Cdt1/MCM2-7 complex, is competent for MCM2-7 dimerization. The MCM2-7 dimer, in contrast to the MCM2-7 double-hexamer, interacts with ORC/Cdc6 and is salt-sensitive, classifying the arrested complex as a helicase-loading intermediate. Accordingly, we found that overexpression of the mutants cause cell-cycle arrest and dominant lethality. Our work identifies the OCM complex as competent for MCM2-7 dimerization, reveals MCM2-7 dimerization as a limiting step during pre-RC formation and defines critical mechanisms that explain how origins are licensed.

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