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Elife. 2019 Aug 6;8. pii: e45538. doi: 10.7554/eLife.45538.

A conserved Mcm4 motif is required for Mcm2-7 double-hexamer formation and origin DNA unwinding.

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Department of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States.
Microbiology Graduate Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States.
Department of Biochemistry, Brandeis University, Waltham, United States.
Contributed equally


Licensing of eukaryotic origins of replication requires DNA loading of two copies of the Mcm2-7 replicative helicase to form a head-to-head double-hexamer, ensuring activated helicases depart the origin bidirectionally. To understand the formation and importance of this double-hexamer, we identified mutations in a conserved and essential Mcm4 motif that permit loading of two Mcm2-7 complexes but are defective for double-hexamer formation. Single-molecule studies show mutant Mcm2-7 forms initial hexamer-hexamer interactions; however, the resulting complex is unstable. Kinetic analyses of wild-type and mutant Mcm2-7 reveal a limited time window for double-hexamer formation following second Mcm2-7 association, suggesting that this process is facilitated. Double-hexamer formation is required for extensive origin DNA unwinding but not initial DNA melting or recruitment of helicase-activation proteins (Cdc45, GINS, Mcm10). Our findings elucidate dynamic mechanisms of origin licensing, and identify the transition between initial DNA melting and extensive unwinding as the first initiation event requiring double-hexamer formation.


DNA replication; Mcm2-7; S. cerevisiae; biochemistry; chemical biology; chromosomes; gene expression; helicase; origin licensing; single-molecule studies

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