Mechanism and evolution of DNA primases

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 May;1804(5):1180-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2009.06.011. Epub 2009 Jun 21.


DNA primase synthesizes short RNA primers that replicative polymerases further elongate in order to initiate the synthesis of all new DNA strands. Thus, primase owes its existence to the inability of DNA polymerases to initiate DNA synthesis starting with 2 dNTPs. Here, we discuss the evolutionary relationships between the different families of primases (viral, eubacterial, archael, and eukaryotic) and the catalytic mechanisms of these enzymes. This includes how they choose an initiation site, elongate the growing primer, and then only synthesize primers of defined length via an inherent ability to count. Finally, the low fidelity of primases along with the development of primase inhibitors is described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • DNA Primase / genetics*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA Primers / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA Primase