Plasmid rolling-circle replication: highlights of two decades of research

Plasmid. 2005 Mar;53(2):126-36. doi: 10.1016/j.plasmid.2004.12.008. Epub 2005 Jan 22.


This review provides a historical perspective of the major findings that contributed to our current understanding of plasmid rolling-circle (RC) replication. Rolling-circle-replicating (RCR) plasmids were discovered approximately 20 years ago. The first of the RCR plasmids to be identified were native to Gram-positive bacteria, but later such plasmids were also identified in Gram-negative bacteria and in archaea. Further studies revealed mechanistic similarities in the replication of RCR plasmids and the single-stranded DNA bacteriophages of Escherichia coli, although there were important differences as well. Three important elements, a gene encoding the initiator protein, the double strand origin, and the single strand origin, are contained in all RCR plasmids. The initiator proteins typically contain a domain involved in their sequence-specific binding to the double strand origin and a domain that nicks within the double strand origin and generates the primer for DNA replication. The double strand origins include the start-site of leading strand synthesis and contain sequences that are bound and nicked by the initiator proteins. The single strand origins are required for synthesis of the lagging strand of RCR plasmids. The single strand origins are non-coding regions that are strand-specific, and contain extensive secondary structures. This minireview will highlight the major findings in the study of plasmid RC replication over the past twenty years. Regulation of replication of RCR plasmids will not be included since it is the subject of another review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA
  • DNA Replication / physiology*
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Forecasting
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids / biosynthesis
  • Plasmids / genetics*


  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA