An alternative pathway for Okazaki fragment processing: resolution of fold-back flaps by Pif1 helicase

J Biol Chem. 2010 Dec 31;285(53):41712-23. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.146894. Epub 2010 Oct 19.


Two pathways have been proposed for eukaryotic Okazaki fragment RNA primer removal. Results presented here provide evidence for an alternative pathway. Primer extension by DNA polymerase δ (pol δ) displaces the downstream fragment into an RNA-initiated flap. Most flaps are cleaved by flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) while short, and the remaining nicks joined in the first pathway. A small fraction escapes immediate FEN1 cleavage and is further lengthened by Pif1 helicase. Long flaps are bound by replication protein A (RPA), which inhibits FEN1. In the second pathway, Dna2 nuclease cleaves an RPA-bound flap and displaces RPA, leaving a short flap for FEN1. Pif1 flap lengthening creates a requirement for Dna2. This relationship should not have evolved unless Pif1 had an important role in fragment processing. In this study, biochemical reconstitution experiments were used to gain insight into this role. Pif1 did not promote synthesis through GC-rich sequences, which impede strand displacement. Pif1 was also unable to open fold-back flaps that are immune to cleavage by either FEN1 or Dna2 and cannot be bound by RPA. However, Pif1 working with pol δ readily unwound a full-length Okazaki fragment initiated by a fold-back flap. Additionally, a fold-back in the template slowed pol δ synthesis, so that the fragment could be removed before ligation to the lagging strand. These results suggest an alternative pathway in which Pif1 removes Okazaki fragments initiated by fold-back flaps in vivo.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA Helicases / genetics*
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • DNA Polymerase III / chemistry
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry
  • Oligonucleotides / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics
  • Replication Protein A / chemistry
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Okazaki fragments
  • Oligonucleotides
  • RNA primers
  • Replication Protein A
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Acetyltransferases
  • ELO2 protein, S cerevisiae
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • PIF1 protein, S cerevisiae
  • DNA Helicases
  • DNA2 protein, S cerevisiae