Organization and evolution of bacterial and bacteriophage primase-helicase systems

J Mol Evol. 1992 Apr;34(4):351-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00160243.


Amino acid sequences of primases and associated helicases involved in the DNA replication of eubacteria and bacteriophages T7, T3, T4, P4, and P22 were compared by computer-assisted methods. There are two types of such systems, the first one represented by distinct helicase and primase proteins (e.g., DnaB and DnaG proteins of Escherichia coli), and the second one by single polypeptides comprising both activities (gp4 of bacteriophages T7 and T3, and alpha protein of bacteriophage P4). Pronounced sequence similarity was revealed between approximately 250 amino acid residue N-terminal domains of stand-alone primases and the primase-helicase proteins of T7(T3) and P4. All these domains contain, close to their N-termini, a conserved Zn-finger pattern that may be implicated in template DNA recognition by the primases. In addition, they encompass five other conserved motifs some of which may be involved in substrate (NTP) binding. Significant similarity was also observed between the primase-associated helicases (DnaB, gp12 and P22 and gp41 of T4) and the C-terminal domain of T7(T3) gp4. On the other hand the C-terminal domain of P-alpha of P4 is related to another group of DNA and RNA helicases. Tentative phylogenetic trees generated for the primases and the associated helicases showed no grouping of the phage proteins, with the exception of the primase domains of bacteriophages T4 and P4. This may indicate a common origin for one-component primase-helicase systems. Two scenarios for the evolution of primase-helicase systems are discussed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteriophages / enzymology
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Primase
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multienzyme Complexes / chemistry
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics*
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / chemistry
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • DNA Primase
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases