DNA and Chromosomes
- DNA polymerase α (Polα) plays an important role in genome replication. In a complex with primase, Polα synthesizes chimeric RNA–DNA primers necessary for replication of both chromosomal DNA strands. During RNA primer extension with deoxyribonucleotides, Polα needs to use double-stranded helical substrates having different structures. Here, we provide a detailed structure–function analysis of human Polα's interaction with dNTPs and DNA templates primed with RNA, chimeric RNA–DNA, or DNA. We report the crystal structures of two ternary complexes of the Polα catalytic domain containing dCTP, a DNA template, and either a DNA or an RNA primer.
- The eukaryotic B-family DNA polymerases include four members: Polα, Polδ, Polϵ, and Polζ, which share common architectural features, such as the exonuclease/polymerase and C-terminal domains (CTDs) of catalytic subunits bound to indispensable B-subunits, which serve as scaffolds that mediate interactions with other components of the replication machinery. Crystal structures for the B-subunits of Polα and Polδ/Polζ have been reported: the former within the primosome and separately with CTD and the latter with the N-terminal domain of the C-subunit.
- The human primosome, a 340-kilodalton complex of primase and DNA polymerase α (Polα), synthesizes chimeric RNA-DNA primers to be extended by replicative DNA polymerases δ and ϵ. The intricate mechanism of concerted primer synthesis by two catalytic centers was an enigma for over three decades. Here we report the crystal structures of two key complexes, the human primosome and the C-terminal domain of the primase large subunit (p58C) with bound DNA/RNA duplex. These structures, along with analysis of primase/polymerase activities, provide a plausible mechanism for all transactions of the primosome including initiation, elongation, accurate counting of RNA primer length, primer transfer to Polα, and concerted autoregulation of alternate activation/inhibition of the catalytic centers.
- DNA replication in almost all organisms depends on the activity of DNA primase, a DNA-dependent RNA polymerase that synthesizes short RNA primers of defined size for DNA polymerases. Eukaryotic and archaeal primases are heterodimers consisting of small catalytic and large accessory subunits, both of which are necessary for the activity. The mode of interaction of primase subunits with substrates during the various steps of primer synthesis that results in the counting of primer length is not clear.
- In eukaryotic DNA replication, short RNA-DNA hybrid primers synthesized by primase-DNA polymerase α (Prim-Pol α) are needed to start DNA replication by the replicative DNA polymerases, Pol δ and Pol ϵ. The C terminus of the Pol α catalytic subunit (p180C) in complex with the B subunit (p70) regulates the RNA priming and DNA polymerizing activities of Prim-Pol α. It tethers Pol α and primase, facilitating RNA primer handover from primase to Pol α. To understand these regulatory mechanisms and to reveal the details of human Pol α organization, we determined the crystal structure of p70 in complex with p180C.