Dynamics of beta and proliferating cell nuclear antigen sliding clamps in traversing DNA secondary structure

J Biol Chem. 2000 Jan 14;275(2):1421-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.275.2.1421.


Chromosomal replicases of cellular organisms utilize a ring shaped protein that encircles DNA as a mobile tether for high processivity in DNA synthesis. These "sliding clamps" have sufficiently large linear diameters to encircle duplex DNA and are perhaps even large enough to slide over certain DNA secondary structural elements. This report examines the Escherichia coli beta and human proliferating cell nuclear antigen clamps for their ability to slide over various DNA secondary structures. The results show that these clamps are capable of traversing a 13-nucleotide ssDNA loop, a 4-base pair stem-loop, a 4-nucleotide 5' tail, and a 15-mer bubble within the duplex. However, upon increasing the size of these structures (20-nucleotide loop, 12-base pair stem-loop, 28-nucleotide 5' tail, and 20-nucleotide bubble) the sliding motion of the beta and proliferating cell nuclear antigen over these elements is halted. Studies of the E. coli replicase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, in chain elongation with the beta clamp demonstrate that upon encounter with an oligonucleotide annealed in its path, it traverses the duplex and resumes synthesis on the 3' terminus of the oligonucleotide. This sliding and resumption of synthesis occurs even when the oligonucleotide contains a secondary structure element, provided the beta clamp can traverse the structure. However, upon encounter with a downstream oligonucleotide containing a large internal secondary structure, the holoenzyme clears the obstacle by strand displacing the oligonucleotide from the template. Implications of these protein dynamics to DNA transactions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / physiology
  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / chemistry
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / chemistry*
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / physiology*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Templates, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • DNA
  • beta subunit, DNA polymerase III
  • DNA Polymerase III