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Elife. 2014 Apr 1;3:e01993. doi: 10.7554/eLife.01993.

A conserved MCM single-stranded DNA binding element is essential for replication initiation.

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Department of Structural Biology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, United States.


The ring-shaped MCM helicase is essential to all phases of DNA replication. The complex loads at replication origins as an inactive double-hexamer encircling duplex DNA. Helicase activation converts this species to two active single hexamers that encircle single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). The molecular details of MCM DNA interactions during these events are unknown. We determined the crystal structure of the Pyrococcus furiosus MCM N-terminal domain hexamer bound to ssDNA and define a conserved MCM-ssDNA binding motif (MSSB). Intriguingly, ssDNA binds the MCM ring interior perpendicular to the central channel with defined polarity. In eukaryotes, the MSSB is conserved in several Mcm2-7 subunits, and MSSB mutant combinations in S. cerevisiae Mcm2-7 are not viable. Mutant Mcm2-7 complexes assemble and are recruited to replication origins, but are defective in helicase loading and activation. Our findings identify an important MCM-ssDNA interaction and suggest it functions during helicase activation to select the strand for translocation. DOI:


DNA replication; archaea; crystallography; genetics; helicase

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