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Nucleic Acids Res. 1993 Aug 11;21(16):3659-65.

DNA unwinding by replication protein A is a property of the 70 kDa subunit and is facilitated by phosphorylation of the 32 kDa subunit.

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Department of Veterinary Biochemistry, University of Zürich-Irchel, Switzerland.


Replication protein A (RP-A) is a heterotrimeric single-stranded DNA binding protein with important functions in DNA replication, DNA repair and DNA recombination. We have found that RP-A from calf thymus can unwind DNA in the absence of ATP and MgCl2, two essential cofactors for bona fide DNA helicases (Georgaki, A., Strack, B., Podust, V. and Hübscher, U. FEBS Lett. 308, 240-244, 1992). DNA unwinding by RP-A was found to be sensitive to MgCl2, ATP, heating and freezing/thawing. Escherichia coli single stranded DNA binding protein at concentrations that coat the single stranded regions had no influence on DNA unwinding by RP-A suggesting that RP-A binds fast and tightly to single-stranded DNA. DNA unwinding by RP-A did not show directionality. Experiments with monoclonal antibodies strongly suggested that the 70kDa subunit is responsible for DNA unwinding. Phosphorylation of the 32kDa subunit of RP-A by chicken cdc2 kinase facilitated DNA unwinding indicating that this posttranslational modification might be important for modulating this activity of RP-A. Finally, DNA unwinding of a primer recognition complex for DNA polymerase delta which is composed of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, replication factor C and ATP bound to a singly-primed M13DNA slightly inhibited DNA unwinding. An important role for DNA unwinding by RP-A in processes such as initiation of DNA replication, fork propagation, DNA repair and DNA recombination is discussed.

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