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J Biol Chem. 1999 Feb 12;274(7):4447-58.

Biochemical and electron microscopic image analysis of the hexameric E1 helicase.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


DNA replication initiator proteins bind site specifically to origin sites and in most cases participate in the early steps of unwinding the duplex. The papillomavirus preinitiation complex that assembles on the origin of replication is composed of proteins E1 and the activator protein E2. E2 is an ancillary factor that increases the affinity of E1 for the ori site through cooperative binding. Here we show that duplex DNA affects E1 (in the absence of E2) to assemble into an active hexameric structure. As a 10-base oligonucleotide can also induce this oligomerization, it seems likely that DNA binding allosterically induces a conformation that enhances hexamers. E1 assembles as a bi-lobed, presumably double hexameric structure on duplex DNA and can initiate bi-directional unwinding from an ori site. The DNA takes an apparent straight path through the double hexamers. Image analysis of E1 hexameric rings shows that the structures are heterogeneous and have either a 6- or 3-fold symmetry. The rings are about 40-50 A thick and 125 A in diameter. The density of the central cavity appears to be a variable and we speculate that a plugged center may represent a conformational flexibility of a subdomain of the monomer, to date unreported for other hexameric helicases.

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