Coordinating DNA replication by means of priming loop and differential synthesis rate

Nature. 2009 Dec 17;462(7275):940-3. doi: 10.1038/nature08611. Epub 2009 Nov 18.


Genomic DNA is replicated by two DNA polymerase molecules, one of which works in close association with the helicase to copy the leading-strand template in a continuous manner while the second copies the already unwound lagging-strand template in a discontinuous manner through the synthesis of Okazaki fragments. Considering that the lagging-strand polymerase has to recycle after the completion of every Okazaki fragment through the slow steps of primer synthesis and hand-off to the polymerase, it is not understood how the two strands are synthesized with the same net rate. Here we show, using the T7 replication proteins, that RNA primers are made 'on the fly' during ongoing DNA synthesis and that the leading-strand T7 replisome does not pause during primer synthesis, contrary to previous reports. Instead, the leading-strand polymerase remains limited by the speed of the helicase; it therefore synthesizes DNA more slowly than the lagging-strand polymerase. We show that the primase-helicase T7 gp4 maintains contact with the priming sequence during ongoing DNA synthesis; the nascent lagging-strand template therefore organizes into a priming loop that keeps the primer in physical proximity to the replication complex. Our findings provide three synergistic mechanisms of coordination: first, primers are made concomitantly with DNA synthesis; second, the priming loop ensures efficient primer use and hand-off to the polymerase; and third, the lagging-strand polymerase copies DNA faster, which allows it to keep up with leading-strand DNA synthesis overall.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage T7 / enzymology*
  • Bacteriophage T7 / genetics
  • Bacteriophage T7 / physiology*
  • DNA Primase / chemistry
  • DNA Primase / metabolism
  • DNA Replication / physiology*
  • DNA, Viral / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Multienzyme Complexes / chemistry
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • Time Factors


  • DNA, Viral
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • RNA primers
  • RNA
  • DNA Primase
  • DNA synthesome
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase