Archaeal primase: bridging the gap between RNA and DNA polymerases

Curr Biol. 2001 Mar 20;11(6):452-6. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(01)00119-1.


In the evolution of life, DNA replication is a fundamental process, by which species transfer their genetic information to their offspring. DNA polymerases, including bacterial and eukaryotic replicases, are incapable of de novo DNA synthesis. DNA primases are required for this function, which is sine qua non to DNA replication. In Escherichia coli, the DNA primase (DnaG) exists as a monomer and synthesizes a short RNA primer. In Eukarya, however, the primase activity resides within the DNA polymerase alpha-primase complex (Pol alpha-pri) on the p48 subunit, which synthesizes the short RNA segment of a hybrid RNA-DNA primer. To date, very little information is available regarding the priming of DNA replication in organisms in Archaea. Available sequenced genomes indicate that the archaeal DNA primase is a homolog of the eukaryotic p48 subunit. Here, we report investigations of a p48-like DNA primase from Pyrococcus furiosus, a hyperthermophilic euryarchaeote. P. furiosus p48-like protein (Pfup41), unlike hitherto-reported primases, does not catalyze by itself the synthesis of short RNA primers but preferentially utilizes deoxynucleotides to synthesize DNA fragments up to several kilobases in length. Pfup41 is the first DNA polymerase that does not require primers for the synthesis of long DNA strands.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / biosynthesis*
  • DNA Polymerase I / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase I / metabolism*
  • DNA Primase / genetics
  • DNA Primase / metabolism*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / biosynthesis
  • Pyrococcus furiosus / enzymology*
  • RNA


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA primers
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • DNA Primase
  • DNA polymerase alpha-primase
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases
  • DNA Polymerase I
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase