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J Mol Biol. 1993 Sep 5;233(1):16-24.

Replicatively active complexes of DnaA protein and the Escherichia coli chromosomal origin observed in the electron microscope.

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Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305.


DnaA protein and the Escherichia coli chromosomal origin (oriC) form an initial complex at an early stage in the initiation of DNA replication. We have used electron microscopy to determine which structure among the several formed in the reconstitution of this multicomponent system is the replicatively active complex. One distinctive structure could be correlated with activity and localized to oriC, whilst several others could not. Formation of an open complex in the next stage of initiation was accompanied by the presence of a structure similar in size and shape to that of the functional initial complex. Whereas the initial complex was observed with either ATP or the ADP-forms of DnaA protein, only the ATP-form was effective in producing the open complex. Mutagenesis of several DNA sequence elements in oriC, known to be important for replication, was employed to determine the effects of these alterations on formation of the initial complex. As judged by electron microscopy and by functional assays, the region containing the four 9-mer dnaA boxes proved to be essential for the formation of the initial complex, while the three contiguous AT-rich 13-mers, known sites for opening of oriC, were not.

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